Often I engage in discussions with nonprofit sector colleagues about their approach to innovation, and conversations generally steer in the direction of how to create the next big idea or finding that panacea that might transform their organization.
These aspirations of innovation tend to lean toward creating a new fundraising hook or special event that would beat all others. Being innovative does not only mean a single invention, never-seen-before program, service or campaign. Innovation, seeded in small organizational ideas or adaptions can be quite impactful.
Innovation also refers to changing processes or creating more effective products. Innovation involves changing your business model and adapting operations and governance to changes in your environment to deliver better products or services.
To adopt an innovative mindset requires leadership that empowers staff and volunteers to solve problems that matter most to executing an organization’s mission. Nonprofits stewarding a curious culture, where staff are permitted to question assumptions and constructively challenge the status quo more often produce better innovative results.
Here are four considerations for those nonprofits choosing to embark on an innovation journey:
Communications: Regardless of formal and informal communication channels and processes it would be beneficial to permit, examine and determine ways to enhance a proper, transparent flow of information across departmental boundaries of your organization from stakeholders, outside supporters, and beneficiaries.
Workflow and Process Planning: Finding ways to enhance performance can often be found in providing appropriate structures and streamlining workflow and processes. Encouraging free-flow of ideas, eliminating redundant tasks, strengthening team effectiveness, and streamlining functions can help encourages innovation.
Program and Service Resources: Teams measuring programs and services for social impact should carefully consider the readiness and deployment of resources, such as funding, time, training, and tools. It would serve the organization well to deploy the resources that encourages and rewards innovative practice.
Integrating Diverse Teams: Building diverse teams with different backgrounds, experiences, attitudes, and capabilities, and giving them permission to integrate their work can enhance an organization’s capacity to generate innovative, transformational ideas.
Today, nonprofits face numerous challenges in a rapidly changing environment ranging from social need, economic conditions, talent acquisition and limited or shrinking resources. By adopting an innovative mindset and opening up the organization to practice meaningful continuous improvement can bring about new, sustainable programs and services to communities.