The Prime Target for Innovation

The genesis of innovation is either inspiration or perspiration.  Innovation can result when a person recognizes an opportunity to improve an existing process or when a person recognizes an unmet need.  Before the innovation is realized, there must be a lot of thinking, planning, trying and research.  Then after great labor pains, an innovation is born.

The most loyal, demanding, or otherwise significant clients are usually the ones that enjoy the greatest number of innovation.  It makes sense.  They are visible, receive the most attention, and make their needs known most frequently.  The other group that enjoys a significant number of innovations are the clients with the greatest needs (number of needs, size of needs, complexity of needs, etc.).  In addition, helping those with the greatest needs is likely to draw some new clients to your nonprofit.  Inspiration is the usual the source of innovation for these two groups.

The typical clients receive the least number of innovations even though they are in the most populous group.  Any innovation for that group will benefit the most lives.  Since they are the least obvious group, they are the most overlooked group.  They are also the most contented group, which further reduces the visibility of their needs.  They are also the least loyal because they are often overlooked and taken for granted.  However, they are the heart of the mission.

The demands on management have intensified over the past few years because of the increase in competition and the rapid paced of change.  Most of the effort and funds go into maintaining operations.  That leaves very little time, thought, or funding for pushing forward the heart of the mission.

By its nature, the heart of any mission is primarily enhanced by sustaining innovations.  It is rare when an inspiration creates a sustaining innovation. Usually, sustaining innovations are the result of hard work and experimentation.  However, without management supporting the heart of the mission through the allocation of time and resources, the innovations necessary to keep the heart strong are unlikely to be available.  While the heart of every organization is the most important, it usually runs smoothly and is therefore overlooked and taken for granted.  As a result, it is easy for a nonprofit’s sustainability to decline without anyone noticing.

Next Step:

Make innovation for the heart of your mission a priority

Allocate time and resources to ensure the heart of your mission is constantly evolving through innovation rather than relying on copying what someone else is doing

Trust that innovation for the other segments of your client base will occur because of their visibility

The strength of your mission is best measured by the strength of your core.  It is difficult to measure the strength of an organization’s core because your strength is related to what your competition is doing to serve the members of your core.  One rarely knows what the competition is doing before they feel the effect (loss of clients or decline in new client enrollment). Therefore, the best defense is frequent innovation.  It is hard to out-innovate an innovator.

Innovation becomes easier with practice.  As your number of innovations grows, you will notice an increase in new clients and an improvement in client retention.

Take It Further:

Apply targeted innovative thinking to the other areas where your nonprofit competes (hiring, recruiting board members, fundraising, etc.)

Ask your board to measure the value of your innovations based upon the growth in new clients and the retention of current clients


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