How Does Your (Fundraising) Garden Grow?
Below is a matrix, developed by The Management Centre, that outlines seven innovation approaches used by a number of charities. Most of the examples are European, but you probably can identify how they might apply to you.
No one approach is ideal for any organization. And an organization might go through a series of these approaches as it develops. (See the Greenpeace International case study sidebar.)
Characteristics: Create a small team that works away from the headquarters to develop high-risk/high-potential projects. The team acts like pirates, taking ideas from anywhere without having to report back to headquarters. It returns when it’s come up with “loot” — any idea that might work.
Structure: Skunk Works
Characteristics: Organize time-limited, cross-functional project teams to generate ideas in response to specific challenges, and work them through. As a part of this, it’s common to bring in outsiders to stimulate thinking. So an organization’s new strategic plan is being developed, for example, over three weekends by a group of 50 percent insiders and 50 percent outsiders.
Characteristics: Train a small group in innovation techniques. Members return to their normal roles empowered to stimulate innovation among others. NSPCC chose a team of 50 creativity coaches who had been trained in creativity and innovation techniques to encourage others to have great ideas. (They’re not innovators themselves, but people who help others to be.)
Characteristics: Encourage ideas from everywhere through prizes and awards that anyone can apply for. This approach involves reducing bureaucracy and the dreaded “ideas committee.” (Doesn’t that just seem like an oxymoron?) One person assesses the ideas, and there are various levels of prizes and awards to stimulate participation. Prizes involve time off to develop your idea.
Structure: Dragons’ Den
Characteristics: Create a formal “American Idol”-style system to select ideas. Innovations are assessed by a group that has an investment budget. The Dragons’ Den involves staff bringing ideas into the fierce heat of critical thinking. The dragons’ job is to weed out ideas that won’t make it. (You need a process to stimulate ideas to this stage. And make it clear: It’s tough!)
Structure: Open Source
Characteristics: Pose problems online, and ask users, donors, supporters and customers to solve them. This is the newest of the innovation approaches; it is used by Procter & Gamble to develop new projects and was adapted by Greenpeace International to ask supporters how to raise funds.
Characteristics: Create a team whose job is to come up with innovative ideas. Sometimes you need to create a team of people whose sole focus is generating ideas and then selling them to another part of the organization to deliver — more like a conventional research-and-development operation. At Cancer Research UK, the team focuses on high-value ideas that will create more than $10 million a year.
You might like to reflect on which of these approaches would fit most neatly in your organizational culture. And notice that the story of Greenpeace is one of choosing different structures as the situation changes.