Cracking the innovation code for NFPs

This post is part of the CMA Not-for-Profit Council’s ongoing work on innovation in the NFP sector. Interested in learning more? We have an upcoming session and networking lunch on October 5 in downtown Toronto – please come join the conversation!

In a rapidly evolving and increasingly competitive environment, marketing innovation is essential for an organization’s basic survival, let alone achieving a desirable ROI. There is considerable debate among non-profits about how best to define “innovation,” and even more debate about where to focus one’s marketing innovation efforts.
I had a boss years ago whose mantra was, “don’t be innovative for the sake of being innovative!” I have come to appreciate the wisdom in these words.
I must admit that landing on a concise and comprehensive definition of “innovation,” especially one which is broadly accepted, is a challenge. However, being clear on the objective and success metrics of one’s fundraising innovation initiatives is critical. Whether we’re focused on incremental or radical fundraising innovation, assessing success by the value it creates for the target audience is what’s important. Therefore, the better we understand our target audience’s needs and motivations for giving, the more likely we are to be successful with our innovation endeavours. But how do we measure success, or better yet, predict whether our innovation will likely be successful?
Is it simply the revenue generated? Revenue is certainly a key performance indicator, however, too much focus on revenue can limit our willingness to take (necessary) risks when innovating.  It can also require considerable upfront investment in market testing and promotions to yield statistically significant results. Ideally, we need an earlier indicator to help predict the likelihood of success.
Attempting to quantify the expected lift in value that one’s innovation offers to the target market may be a good starting point. Using an evaluation tool -- like a score card with weighted criteria, prioritized on where the market perceives value -- can be insightful. This type of tool can even be used to assess other innovation ideas in the marketplace. Scoring our innovation ideas in this way has the potential to increase the likelihood of success, not to mention save our limited marketing dollars. The really hard part, however, is the willingness to occasionally walk away from our innovations if they don’t achieve our desired lift in value for the audience we’re after.  (P.S. If you have advice on that front, I’m all ears!)
Bottom line: The best go-to-market strategy, or shiny new creative concept, is meaningless if one’s innovation does not create value in the eyes of the target market. It’s as simple, and complicated, as that.
Jason Matta
Marketing Director
World Vision Canada

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Tags: Fundraising, Not-for-Profits