In Innovation

Compared to a decade ago, Australians are donating less money to charity – but when they do, they are donating greater portions. So if the only constant is change, then our charities had better be prepared for it! Without a healthy respect for any of the many kinds of change that dwells in the future for charities and not-for-profits, even the most “innovative” of ideas by itself won’t stand the test of time.

Read on for five of the incorrect biases people hold about what it takes to be an forward-thinking charity, along with five tips for moving any team into a space of innovation.


  1. Brainstorming equals innovation

Generating innovative ideas means nothing without a platform or a plan of action. Instead of only creating a detached space for throwing ideas around, making lists, and filling up your whiteboard, there needs to be a focus on integrating idea generation into a charity’s processes and systems, so to nurture non-stop innovation; it’s not something you can schedule.

  1. Technology leads innovation

While technology moulds society, technology is nothing on it’s own. Most new technology is only “new” so far as the way we think about it and endeavour to use it! It’s the change and shift in thought and action that leads to new, innovative technology.

  1. Some people and teams “just have it”

Innovation is a process, so a team needs to play to their strengths. You may be skilled at one part of the process; another team member may be effective at a different part! No team “has it all” or got to where they are without effective leaders refining the well-oiled machine.

  1. Creativity and Innovation are synonyms

People often mistake innovation for creativity. Instead, think of creativity as the preamble to the process of innovation… Creativity is the generation of the idea, and a starting point; innovation is the long process that comes next!

  1. That autonomy is the enemy, and control produces outcomes

Google headquarters are considered somewhat of a beacon for innovators; their philosophy lends a lot of ideas for small-scale charities, too. At Google, every employee is encouraged to devote 80% of their time to their “role” and 20% of their time on a side project that doesn’t require overhead approval… That’s where the transit info in Google Maps came from! This kind of open operation leads to an autonomous staff and wonderful innovations without loosing “control.”

TIPS for Promoting Innovation

  1. An innovative business model beats an innovative idea/technology

Hands down, any day… Enough said.

  1. Embrace data to quantify and communicate your successes

A quantitative trend in the NFP sector has seen businesses realise and utilise the power of data. Gone are the days that statistics are feared by all; in fact measurable and visual representations of growth, impact, and performance are powerful tools for marketing and communicating a charity’s vision.

  1. Refine your reward and recognition processes

Celebrate individual successes in the same way you’d celebrate team wins. The “best” charities to work for are the ones with hearty recognition programs, focus on employee engagement though targeting relationships, and emphasising how important it is for innovation to jump quickly on new ideas.

  1. Collaborate rather than compete

A charity exists to execute a unique and (most likely) specific purpose; the competition next door might be in your field… But are they really the competition? Or do they exist to serve a slightly different purpose? Collaboration is an important part of innovation which leads away from stagnation toward a path of growth, new skills, and innovation.

  1. Link innovative ideas to objectives

The power of innovation is having a vision, and a team who works to serve that vision. Once you’ve got the innovative ideas, link them to staff objectives so that the results start to speak for themselves.

FURTHER resources:

  1. Worldwide Innovation Blog: http://innovationexcellence.com/
  2. ImagineNation: https://www.imaginenation.com.au/play-the-lean-start-up-way/
  3. Innovation Ecosystem: http://innovationecosystem.com/
  4. Game-Changer: http://www.game-changer.net/blog/#.W5XNbZMzY1g
  5. Leaning about Data Visualisation for your business: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/learning-data-visualization)

1 http://www.philanthropy.org.au/tools-resources/fast-facts-and-stats/

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