Innovation + Not-for-Profit = Odd Couple?

Innovation and technology concept  in tag cloudLet’s be candid. We do not often hear the words innovation and not-for-profit used in the same sentence. Charities are not known to be forward-thinking and are often times in the shadow of their for-profit counterparts as a result.

Australia Post and GiveEasy have conducted a study to determine which Not-for-Profit organisation are truly the most innovative through the Innovation Index – Australian Not-for-profit Sector 2015.Snip20150329_49

The Innovation Index – Australian Not-for-Profit Sector 2015 is a study of the sector’s current innovation capability. The Index report is a compilation of a survey of more than 744 professionals working across the NFP sector from every Australian state and territory.

Organisations were measured according to their capacity to develop and deliver innovation according to seven key vectors:

  • External Collaboration.
  • Internal Collaboration.
  • Innovation Focus.
  • Openness of Culture/Vision.
  • Organisational Velocity.
  • Rewards/Recognition.
  • Stakeholder Centricity.

The ten most innovative not-for-profit organisations in Australia, according to participants in the study, are:

  1. Movember.
  2. Oxfam.
  3. CharityWater.
  4. World Vision Australia.
  5. Beyond Blue.
  6. Thank you Water.
  7. Getup!
  8. Salvation Army.
  9. McGrath Foundation.
  10. Fred Hollows Foundation.

According to the study, the following offer insight into what innovation in a NFP organisation looks like:

  • Mid- to large-sized organisations employing 11-100 staff.
  • Ones that have national and/or overseas footprint (not one state).
  • Working in the environment, lobbying or youth sectors.
  • Treat beneficiaries and the private sector as important as front line staff and management as sources of innovation.
  • Developing over half of their innovations from outside the organisation.
  • Working hard to bring in new funding.
  • Financially rewarding innovation activity (not just paying it lip service).
  • Has a publically stated innovation policy that all employees know about.
  • Building their own apps as well as just being on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Hiring staff across all age groups including under 25s and over 50s.
  • Focused on retaining employees for 4 or more years.
  • Running a budget of $500-$1m or $2m-$10m.
  • Enjoying a rising budget.
  • Continually getting funds from new sources.

Does your NFP display the above attributes?

The study offers our sector areas in which the sector as a whole may be more innovative. Those areas, include:

  •  Internal collaboration within organisations in the sector needs to be improved.
  • Effective collaboration with stakeholders is a key driver of innovation – the sector overall needs to work harder to solicit feedback from external stakeholders on a regular basis.
  • As in the corporate sector, setting aside time to innovate is a challenge – but it is a necessity if the organisation is to innovate effectively. Those organisations that make time for team members to work on opportunities beyond the daily urgencies reap the rewards.
  • It appears that the status quo of NFP organisations is challenged infrequently. In a world where disruption is rife, and most industry sectors need to justify their customer value proposition frequently, it would be expected that the NFP sector would be more self-questioning.
  • Organisations need to be receptive to change, and agile in their response.
  • While a very high number of people believe that it is important to be innovative in their organisation, there is little or no reward for innovation in the sector – either financially or through promotion.
  • A NFP might be expected to have a very high focus on its stakeholders. Only 63% believe they have a deep understanding of the needs of their stakeholders.

The above is  summary lifted directly from the Innovation Index. To learn more and to gain greater detail, download a copy today. Special thanks to GiveEasy and Australia Post for conducting the study, offering insights into our sector, and identifying areas for improvement. Congratulations to the ten NFPs recognised from their peers as being the most innovative. The Australian NFP sector has much to learn from studies such as this one.