Innovation in NFP sector an oxymoron?

The latest craze in business today centres around innovation: what is it; how do we stimulate it; how do we avoid suppressing it. Based on all the attention, you would think that the concepts and theories around innovation were newly discovered. The reality is that innovation and the spirit of innovation have been with us for centuries. Our choice has always been about how we introduce it into our daily lives or adapt to it. 

Those who have spent a lifetime in the not-for-profit sector would say that “we don’t have the resources to be innovative.” I’d like to challenge that assumption. In an environment where resources are constrained, don’t we owe it to ourselves and our donors to look at new ways of doing business?

Donor acquisition and retention are two areas ripe for innovation. In an industry where losing an average of 77% of your first-time donors or 36% of your repeat donors is addressed by saying that we need to invest in recruiting more donors; not in asking how we reduce attrition and what are we doing wrong, speaks to the need for innovation and for a more effective use of those “limited resources.”

I would suggest that it is not the limitation of resources that hampers innovation but rather the inability or unwillingness to challenge the traditional fundraising mindset. No other sector would tolerate an attrition rate of 77%, and our sector should stop wasting precious resources on acquisition strategies and campaigns until it can figure out how to reduce its attrition rates.

As marketers, we owe it to ourselves and our organizations to provoke these conversations and in so doing challenge the traditional thinking. It may just be that a more efficient and effective use of resources would be considered innovative.

Tamara Pope

(Tamara Pope is Chair of the CMA Not-for-Profit Council)

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Tags: Fundraising, Innovation, Not-for-Profit