The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

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8 ways to innovate on any budget

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Want to innovate but don't know where to start? The Fundraiser is providing 8 top tips.

 

Innovation is not the preserve of large charities with big budgets; with the right attitude and a little discipline, any charity can do it. Here are 8 ways you can be innovative without it costing the earth.

 

Start with the problem

Innovation isnít about coming up with wacky ideas that no oneís done before. Itís about finding solutions to the things that are standing in the way of your organisation doing the best possible job for its beneficiaries. So ask yourself what the biggest problem is that your organisation needs to solve, and use that as your starting point.

 

Get everyone on board

If you want to drive innovation in your organisation, youíll need everyone to be on board. Starting with your trustees, make sure everyone in the charity (not just your fundraising teams) understands why you need to innovate - and make them feel like theyíre part of it. This will help create a culture of innovation that permeates throughout the whole organisation.

 

Take a few risks

Youíll find it hard to effect change without taking a few (calculated) risks. Take the lead in creating an environment in which trying things out is OK, and where every failure is seen as a step closer to success. You can manage risk by ensuring you have robust processes in place, and by testing ideas on a small scale before rolling them out.

 

Build your expertise

If you're concerned that your charity lacks the necessary expertise to innovate, and you donít have the budget to hire an innovation consultant, look at other ways you can build expertise within the organisation. Can you make innovation a part of peopleís roles, as Terrence Higgins Trust has done with its innovation champions

 

Drive ideas with insight

Put insight at the heart of every innovation. Thereís no point spending time coming up with new ways to fundraise if they donít speak to your supportersí wants and needs. So pick up the phone and ask your supporters what they want from you.

 

Find the time

Donít have time to innovate? Ask yourself whether all the activities youíre currently filling your working day with are really the ones that are going to help you achieve your organisation's goals the fastest. If you look at it like that, youíll probably find that you can free up some time somewhere.

 

Donít reinvent the wheel

You donít necessarily need to come up with a big, disruptive product that requires loads of time, money and expertise. A lot of ideas can be implemented using the many existing technologies and free tools that are out there. Donít be afraid to adapt someone elseís idea - provided it speaks to the issues that apply to your organisation. 

 

Be persistent!

Donít expect to change the world overnight. Innovation is a process that starts with identifying your biggest problem, and then gradually shifting your organisationís culture in order to address it. Creativity is only one small part of innovation; the rest is made up of courage, discipline and persistence. These are the qualities that will enable you to effect real change within your organisation and, in turn, for your beneficiaries.

 

Jenny Ramage is editor of The Fundraiser.

 

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