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According to the results of the recently released Give Easy 2018 Innovation Index, innovation in Australian nonprofits has increased just over 10 points in three years, going from 57.7 to 66.0 this year. The survey revealed that Australia’s most innovative nonprofits include: Burn Bright, the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, Culture at Work, Thankyou, along with the Australian Red Cross and the Fred Hollows Foundation.

How does your NFP compare to the nation’s most innovative organisations? What qualities do these nonprofits have that allows them to stand out and make a real difference in the world?

Innovative Traits

Innovation doesn’t happen by accident. It requires creativity, which means that organisations must bring together talented, original thinkers, and give them an environment rich with resources, open communication and the freedom to take risks and try out new ideas.  The most innovative organisations are known for giving their teams the freedom to experiment with processes and procedures. Burn Bright, for example, is constantly pushing the envelope in the methods that it uses to deliver its leadership programming to teenagers, to hold their interest and strengthen their learning abilities.

An additional trait that the most innovative NFPs share is that they truly have the welfare of their communities close to their hearts. Their concern is part of the values of their organisation, informing their mission and showing in every program and service that they offer. Their values are apparent in every action that they take. The Fred Hollows Foundation, for example, was created to put an end to avoidable blindness, and has now saved the sight of millions in Australia and 25 additional countries around the world!

Innovative nonprofits are also confident, because their entire organisation is focused on achieving a shared purpose. They believe in their cause, and the work that they are doing to help their communities!

Does your nonprofit encourage your team to experiment with new ways of thinking and doing things? Do you have a system in place to capture new ideas? Are you focused on your mission, and are you giving your team all the resources that it needs to connect with its community and increase support for your cause?

Tips to Encourage Greater Innovation in Your Nonprofit

The best thing that every organisation can do to encourage greater creativity, cooperation and innovation is to help their associates to share their thoughts and ideas. Look for ways to develop a system to gather new ideas from multiple areas of your organisation.

This means encouraging your staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries of your services to give you feedback on your performance. What are some areas that need to be changed or altered to be improved? What are their best ideas on how things can be made better?

When analysing feedback, don’t settle on just one or two concepts. Instead, narrow your list down to several great ideas. Develop a plan to implement each of them, at least on a trial basis. You can then monitor your change initiatives, tweaking performance as you go along and perfecting it before you “roll-out” the best ideas organisation-wide!

As you try out new ideas, processes and procedures, keep in mind that you will fail at least some of the time, and this is okay – it’s to be expected! Don’t let these setbacks derail your overall change process, however, but learn from these mistakes and use this information to improve the process and create just the right environment where innovation can flourish!

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Is your nonprofit prepared for the unforeseen challenges, and opportunities, that lie just beyond the horizon, or are you focused solely on offering the same services, and delivering them in the same ways, as you’ve always done? Innovation is the key to increasing efficiency, effectiveness and performance, but, it requires creativity and, a willingness to take risks.

To create an environment where innovation can grow and flourish, your organisation must first be open to, and embrace, change. The following strategies can help your nonprofit adopt a more flexible mindset that spurs innovation and improvement.

Empower Your Team to Take Risks

Do your members and staff feel free to share their ideas and try out new ways of thinking and doing things? Encourage your team to challenge the status quo and to questions assumptions. Do away with “sacred cows” and let your team know that no area is off limits when it comes to challenging ways of thinking and doing things.

Let your team understand that it’s safe for them to take calculated risks and try out new ideas, especially if it is something that will save time, streamline a process or otherwise improve your practices. Offer praise and recognition as well as rewards when your people find new ways of doing things that make it easier to create an impact. When there are setbacks, allow your team to learn from the mistake. Encourage them to let it go and move forward once the lesson has been absorbed.

Seek Feedback from Diverse Sources

While it is up to leadership to define an organisation’s culture and chart its course, your NFP needs opinions and other input from other sources. Seek comments and suggestions for improvements from multiple sources both inside and outside of your operations. Encourage your members, service beneficiaries, volunteers, and even the general public to offer up their best ideas and advice on areas your NFP should seek to address.

By seeking feedback from multiple sources, you encourage more open and direct communication throughout your organisation as well as gain insight into problems and issues, as well as solutions, that you might have otherwise overlooked.

Host Brainstorming Sessions

Choose individuals from different departments in your organisation and form an internal focus group to come up with new ideas to improve your processes and practices. Try to select people from a variety of backgrounds, experiences and genders so that you have a variety of viewpoints to identify areas for improvement and come up with potential solutions.

Test Your Ideas

Once you have an interesting concept or proposal, test out your ideas. You might build a prototype or roll out a new practice or process on a limited basis and measure its performance. Identify any areas of weakness, or items that need to be improved upon before your roll out the innovation full-scale. Make any final tweaks and other adjustments if it improves performance. If the idea is not scalable, or otherwise feasible, don’t let this setback weaken your dedication to innovation. Learn what you can from the process and use this information the next time that you have a new idea or concept to try out.

Make Room for Innovation in Your Budget

Adopting any new practice or procedure typically requires time, effort, and funding. Make sure that you are dedicating enough resources to encourage innovation. This means making the necessary equipment, tools, and training readily available as well as making room for it in your budget by allocating funding expressly for innovation.

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innovationWhen most of us hear the word innovation, we likely think of the creation of new products and services. The true meaning of innovation, however, isn’t limited to the invention of new things that no one has seen or dreamed of in the past.

The word innovation comes from the Latin word innovare. Meanings of this term include to “make a change from established routines and practices or to restore or renew something that already exists”. Innovative NFPs find ways to increase communication and successful relationship building with multiple stakeholders so that more individuals come to understand and support the nonprofit’s vision.

The following are some strategies that innovative organisations use to sharpen their focus and gather supporters to help them change either the entire world, or, at least their corner of the world.

Innovative NFPs Create and Maintain Communities

Forward thinking nonprofits can multiply their efforts, and increase their results, by focusing on the human element and seeking ways to connect with others. These organisations focus on communication to raise awareness and donations, building networks of like-minded individuals who come together to participate in the organisation’s projects.

Get Up!, is one Australian nonprofit that relies on its community of supporters and network of strategists to bring attention to environmental, civil rights and other social justice issues and effect change. Since its founding nearly a decade ago, the organisation’s supporters have raised billion in mental healthcare funding, and prevented the opening of new major coal mines that harm the Great Barrier Reef and other parts of the ecosystem.

Forward Minded NFPs are Open to Change and Experimentation

Charities and associations that are the most successful in terms of fundraising, and their ability to provide services to their communities, tend to not rest on their laurels. Rather than being content with doing things the way “they have always been done in the past,” the most innovative NFPs are open to trying new ways of doing things.

For example, rather than relying on traditional fundraising events to raise money, such as direct mail appeals, raffles and auctions, the Movember organisation utilises social media to raise awareness and donations via crowdfunding.

Since 2003, the organisation has issued challenges to raise awareness about prostate cancer and other health issues that primarily affect men. Some of the more unique events include volunteers growing a mustache during November. Supporters can also participate in physical challenges such as running a marathon or climbing a wall and then share their results on social media to encourage others to donate and get involved.

From its humble beginnings in a bar in Melbourne in 2003, this Australian charity has grown to now include chapters all around the globe. As of 2015, over $770 Million Australian dollars have been raised since the NFP’s founding, and over 1,200 projects that support men’s health have been funded.

NFPs with an Innovative Mindset Use Confidence to Power Change

While building a community of supporters, and experimenting with novel approaches to fundraising can make it easier for your nonprofit to accomplish its mission, willpower and confidence also play a powerful role in the success of your efforts. Being able to remain upbeat, positive and determined in the face of overwhelming odds can help your organisation continue to push for change and achieve results.

An example of this is the good work done by the Fred Hollows Foundation whose mission is to end preventable, treatable blindness in Australia and around the world. Each year, millions of people all around the world lose their sight, but 4 out of 5 of these individuals have a preventable, or treatable, cause of blindness.

The nonprofit continues the good work started by eye surgeon Dr. Fred Hollows, and is primarily focused on raising money to train doctors and other healthcare professionals, provide medical facilities, equipment, and antibiotics and continuing to perform sight-saving operations.

According to the foundation, “Our work won’t stop until the injustice of avoidable blindness is completely eradicated in Australia and in the rest of the world. We believe, without a doubt, this will one day be accomplished.” Since its founding, the organisation’s determination and focus have enabled them to restore the sight of over 2 million individuals around the world.

Is your nonprofit making progress towards its goals, is the completion of your mission in sight, or, is something holding your organisation back from achieving its peak performance? If you’re not quite hitting the mark for your fundraising and other goals, it’s probably time to look for ways to shake things up and try something new!

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iStock_000019063405SmallIf you have ever been tempted by volunteerism and pro-bono work, you may have considered doing it as an extracurricular activity – after working hours or during weekends and holidays. But what if someone told you that you can give away more than 50% of your regular work for free without any implications for your business except positive development and expansion? It may sound impossible, but the neo-philanthropist and entrepreneur Matthew Manos has something else to say about it.

About 6 years ago Matthew created his first company – verynice – and started developing the “double-half” methodology – a 50% pro-bono business model. With the help of more than 250 volunteers, verynice donates more than half of its work to not-for-profit organisations from all over the world, helping them save thousands of dollars. Over the past five years, verynice has donated work worth more than $1 million, which has been reinvested by the NFPs in their core activities and has made significant differences in the world.

In his recent article ‘Five Reasons to Give Half Your Work Away’, Matthew explains that following his business model will not affect your business in a negative way. According to him, adopting the “double-half” methodology will not only allow the NFPs you are working with to reinvest their funds for the achievement of their main goals (which he has achieved), it will also help you be part of the difference they make on a full-time basis – in contrast to other volunteer systems where people try to help in their free time. Moreover, Matthew claims that philanthropy is for everyone – not only the people who are already rich and have time to help.  By going pro-bono, you can actually prove that making a difference is not only reserved for a select group for people.

However, Matthew does not expect you to sacrifice your earnings and your business opportunities for the ‘greater good’. Instead, he explains that engaging in a pro-bono community and working with other volunteers and professionals will have a great impact on your business and on you as a human. One of the best things you are getting is numerous quality connections and acquaintances that are bound to prove useful at some point in the future. Besides, working on a volunteer project is likely to make you more innovative, creative and resourceful – qualities that you will find useful with your paid projects, too. And even more, the satisfaction of what you do is certain to invigorate you and make you feel inspired – and this is a reward not easily achievable in other ways.

If you want to learn more about the “double-half” methodology, visit Matthew’s website givehalf.co. There you will find more interesting information and resources, as well as the invaluable book ‘How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free’, which will explain the business model in more detail. In addition, it will answer some the most frequent questions about the operation of the methodology and what exactly is in it for you. Matthew claims that every business can find something in his model, and so far he has not been proven wrong. Make sure you check it out and discover how it can work for you.

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