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Innovation Is the Shortest Route To Sustainable Growth

Innovation Is the Shortest Route To Sustainable Growth

Innovation is an essential ingredient of any successful growth strategy. When we survey the for-profit world, we see innovation acting as a catalyst for new businesses. We also see established businesses in crowded markets remaining relevant by experimenting and innovating. At a human capital level, the spirit of innovation is woven into the company cultures of many companies.

Consumer markets – where donors spend a significant amount of time — are emblematic of experimentation and innovation. There’s really no other way to stay relevant, remain competitive, and grow.

And I think this is something NPOs can and should consider.

You Can Get There From Here

Depending on who you’re talking to, innovation can sound like a complex, costly process that’s a challenge to implement. That’s an exaggeration. Innovation doesn’t mean automating every aspect of fundraising and operations under some set-it-and-forget-it business model. Nor does it have to be complicated.

That’s not to overlook the reality that NPOs face obstacles that better-capitalized, for-profit businesses don’t. The challenge of creating a technology plan, scaling internal systems, managing and integrating data, and retaining talent – all of these place strains on already limited resources.

None of which alters the fact that innovation doesn’t begin with budgetary pangs. It begins with a commitment to re-imagine what your organization could be capable of achieving. Having made that commitment, experimenting, testing, and trial-and-error – as budgets allow — becomes the new way of seeing the organization.

Nonprofits cannot afford to cling to the status quo. The only way to successfully make the transition from where they are today to what’s possible tomorrow, is by testing new ideas, leveraging the right tools, and experimenting with any number of variables.

That includes everything from how well they’re communicating their core messages to each stage of the fundraising experience, to what happens after funds have been collected and the donor has receded into the background.

An Action Plan

NPOs can begin putting innovation into action for themselves, harnessing the same innovative spirit and strategic direction that for-profit businesses thrive on. That commitment to innovation can begin small. It starts with having a strategic plan in place, one that starts with the resources you have at the present and charting a clear, practical course toward becoming a strong, sustainable, more competitive organization.

Armed with a strategic roadmap, NPOs can experiment with the components of the complete fundraising value chain, innovating as they progress by creating new products, services, and features that focus on the donor. This will lead to a smooth, efficient, and memorable fundraising experience for donors. The end result: demonstrably improved retention and recurring donations.

Examples of well-known brands that consistently embrace innovation as a core competency is all around us. Starbucks, for one, has turned continuous experimenting and improvement into a sustainable competitive advantage, chiefly by putting customers first, listening to what they’re saying, testing different products, then introducing them incrementally into daily practice.

But experimenting and innovating are by no means limited to large, household names. Smaller businesses of a scale similar to nonprofits are leveraging experimental, innovative thinking to quietly revolutionize their original business models. Four-year-old Kansas City-based solar energy company Zenernet is one example. For too long, the company observed — the hassle of installation and opaque pricing structures had been a drag on growth in the sector. The pandemic only made things worse.

Convinced that it could make solar energy more practical, affordable, and transparent for more people, Zenernet analyzed its sales cycle and responded by embracing remote sales early, enabling a greater rapport between consultants and homeowners. Virtual home visits eliminated the need for onsite measurements by a technician and proved both faster and more accurate (and led to a nearly 100% completion rate).

Zenernet also became the first in its space to introduce a modular pricing structure and instant, firm quotes, based on a user’s address and energy usage. Customers quickly responded to its user-friendly focus: Year-over-year sales were up 45% in 2020, while revenue ($9.4 million) was up 88%.

Take a careful look at your nonprofit from top to bottom. Does your strategic plan incorporate experimenting and innovation as an engine to drive an elevated, distinctive fundraising experience? It all begins with taking a fresh look at all the ways you can innovate your way to a new level of recurring donations. 

iDonate had just this in mind when it developed its Digital Fundraising Platform (DFP), which allows for easy experimentation and innovation to strengthen ties with recurring donors, accelerate conversions, and achieve sustainability. Visit iDonate to learn more.

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