Innovation from scratch
Charities have very well developed fundraising departments with deep expertise in their area. However, the giving ‘market place’ is changing rapidly. As part of the Open Innovation Programme large charities having been looking at ways of going beyond their own organisations to find external inspiration and partnerships to test out new ways of increasing giving of time and money. Their experiences and learning over an 18-month period, have produced key criteria and stages required to take great ideas for increasing giving to market.
Are you ready?
This simple diagnostic test can help you assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of your organisational culture, capacity and capabilities.
Keep a note of your scores using the following scale (one = unprepared, five = ready to go!) and discover your readiness level:
1. The organisational and leadership commitment to embrace a culture of innovation.
Some Chief Executives and Trustee Boards decide that they want the charity to stick at what it does best and not take undue risks. In an ever changing and competitive landscape, most charities are thinking about strategic innovations to increase the giving of time, money, resources and assets to better serve their beneficiaries. How committed is your organisation to innovation?
2. Access to the right skills, capacity, budget and resources to make innovation happen.
Before your idea is given the green light, you should make a plan around how to navigate internal culture barriers, build the right team, source the right skills, ring-fence the budget and navigate through bureaucracy. How empowered and autonomous are you?
3. Freedom to take calculated risks and OK to make mistakes.
No organisation can innovate without taking risks and accepting failures. As Sir James Dyson boldly suggests, “Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success.” While failing is not a desired outcome, fostering a culture of regularly taking small, smart risks and learning from failures is. How far is it possible to take risks and create tolerance for failure in your organisation?
4. Innovation processes (idea creation, capturing and using market research & consumer insights, prototyping, business case development, measuring success).
Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires underpinning processes linking all stages of your giving product or service proposition. While the capabilities exist in different parts of the organisation they need to be linked together to enable value creation to happen. How integrated and connected is your work to the organisation?
5. Openness to inter-departmental cooperation and collaboration with external partners.
Open innovation is most effective when you can get the best people in your organisation working with the best outside it. Before achieving this however it is important that this mind-set starts at home. Getting fundraising, marketing, innovation, IT, volunteering and service delivery departments to cooperate is as important as collaboration with external experts, delivery partners, supporters and beneficiaries. How open is your organisation to cooperation and collaboration across departments and with external partners?
What did you score?
By now you have a broad sense of what makes a fit and healthy innovation outfit. Many charities score below half using this self-assessment. The reality is that while many charities claim they are innovative, it’s not being realised at an operational level. Share the diagnostic test with colleagues across your organisation and work together to raise your score.
In an ideal world, you’d develop this capacity before beginning innovation processes. If you are able to find low risk ways of getting people to start working together on relevant areas, then you’ll be ready to design more advanced innovation programmes before too long.
Making innovation happen
Drawing from the product development processes used by charities on the Open Innovation Programme, here is a summary of the key stages required to take great ideas for increasing giving to market:
Stage one - design
1. Gather and filter ideas from colleagues and external sources including supporters, volunteers, users, beneficiaries, and even competitors. Conduct market research and capture consumer insights.
Foodcycle: While developing new community fundraising products the charity opened up their idea creation and selection process to corporate partners leading to new insights and partnerships that would not have materialised from a traditional client-supplier operating model.
2. Arrive at clearly defined problem statements and unmet needs. Validate these with internal and external stakeholders to ensure you are solving the right problems.
Mencap: This step turned out to be a crucial filter in deciding not to proceed with their proposed innovation in giving, ‘Kids for Good’ – a fun, easy and safe way for children to raise sponsorship from friends and family online. An evidence-based approach demonstrated schools are currently cash based by choice and have no appetite for a digital platform.
Stage two - build
3. Consider your solution options, make technology choices and map out the giving user journey. Co-design the solution with a shortlisted audience from the design stage.
National Trust: In developing the Big Family Day Out – an innovative family volunteering proposition combining employee volunteering with family days out – National Trust had to decide between hosting the platform internally or externally, whether it was open or closed source and its development approach. The user journey was co-designed with employers and employees informing the user experience for both groups.
4. Learn about and test out open innovation processes such as co-creation – working from the outset with delivery partners and users. You may wish to borrow from the way many web resources are built using what the tech world calls ‘agile’ development methodologies. This is a structured process for testing a new idea or product out with users iteratively and improving the idea or product in an ongoing way rather than launching once ‘perfected’.
Marie Curie Cancer Care: Adopting an open innovation mind-set from the outset enabled the charity to co-create ‘Tickety Boo’ – a loyalty based data-driven online gaming platform. Using agile methodologies they regularly tested their assumptions with end users, from insights to branding to final product evaluation.
Stage three - run
5. Organise a launch event to celebrate your success. Tailor your PR and marketing to promote your innovation in giving appropriately. Involve advocates and ambassadors as early as possible. Use social media and tap into your communication networks.
United Response: The charity used its 40th birthday to organise ‘4Tea’ events across the country and launch its innovation in giving project which included the platform ‘Give Where You Live’ – intended to enable friends and family of beneficiaries and others to donate money or volunteer time to local projects and causes.
6. Prepare strategies to manage rewards and recognition to donors and volunteers, and to monitor and evaluate post-launch. Also look at strategies to ensure long-term success.
Keep Britain Tidy: The environmental charity’s ‘Love Where You Live’ online sharing network is making it easier to share time, skills, resources, money and environmental action at a national scale through an online platform includes a digital mapping application, where supporters can upload images and stories, communicate with each other and inspire others. In return, through the development of a new Keep Britain Tidy reward currency, supporters earn goodwill credits that can be redeemed towards products and services offered by corporate partners.
If you’re ready to go on an open innovation journey, bear in mind that sometimes the journey and changing ways of working to increase capability is just as important and impactful as the project itself.