How Does Your (Fundraising) Garden Grow?
Experience shows that even a systematic model isn’t enough. There are a number of roles managers can play in stimulating fundraising innovation. What does your organization need you to be?
Mentor: The mentor adopts individuals or even ideas, ensuring they achieve their full potential. He or she cuts through bureaucracy to ensure innovation wins through and is recognized at the top. Mentors can agree to specific support and organize connections with key decision makers. Does your organization need you to be a mentor? Who or what should you mentor?
Gardener: The gardener ensures that the organizational culture (the garden) sustains experimental ideas (plants). The gardener can nurture ideas in their early stages, but there also comes a time when ideas have to grow by themselves. Is your organization an “innovation garden”? What would you change to make it so?
Talent scout: The talent scout, like the mentor, focuses on individuals. But the key is seeking talent from outside — new employees, temps, interns, secondees or even consultants. Organizational energy is created through an influx of fresh blood. Does your organization need talent? And if so, what kind?
Catalyst: In science, a catalyst produces radical change in a normally stable substance. In innovation, it’s someone who brings together diverse elements — teams or individuals — to create a reaction. (Note that once you create the reaction, you can’t control it.) Who could you bring together to create a dramatic reaction — donors and beneficiaries, perhaps? Who could work on a problem in a radical, new way?
Ethnographer: An ethnographer studies human behavior across cultures and generations. In an innovation sense, he or she searches for needs not yet met or even fully expressed by the organization’s donors and tracks how donors use the Web site, then changes it to meet this need. Which donors might you study to gain some insights into how to change your work?
Venture intellectual capitalist: This is a budget-holder with a free rein and the ability to spot longshots. He or she sustains a portfolio with fast-return and high-ROI projects. It’s important to allow the VIC to be judged across a whole portfolio over time rather than on a case-by-case basis. Could you get your hands on a budget? And if you could, what would you support with it?
Mash-up artist: In music, a mash-up artist mixes sounds to create something new. An innovation mash-up artist combines and controls in an organizational sense. He or she tears down silos, links unlikely ideas and brings in oddball outsiders to challenge current thinking. Unlike the catalyst, he or she directs the process. Are you a mash-up artist capable of choosing elements and combining them in unusual ways?