Look for Challenges

Dozens of bumper stickers tell us that challenges or problems are great opportunities in hiding. They all sound great until you are slapped in the face by one. Then our first reaction is to find a workaround.

We search for the workaround because there is a deadline that must be met, there is a client who needs services, or its Friday night and the family is waiting to leave on vacation. Once the workaround proves itself, we are off to the next thing. If we remember, we share the workaround with others and it becomes part of the standard process.

There is nothing wrong with the preceding except it makes it seem like challenges are irritations rather than great opportunities.

The way to validate the bumper sticker is to wait until the dust clears and then innovate. Through innovation, the slap in the face becomes a great opportunity to give your nonprofit another competitive advantage. The competitive advantage might only be incremental but with enough grains of sand you can create a mountain. (Don’t you love bumper stickers?)

Your workaround is the first step toward making your process better. Take a moment to imagine how the process can be redesigned to eliminate the need for a workaround. Talk with your colleagues about how to make the process more effective now that a stumbling block has been removed. Make the workaround the inspiration for your innovation.

Every competitive advantage adds to your nonprofit’s sustainability and reputation. If you ensure that each competitive advantage is also mission centric (does something to enhance your mission), you will add to the success of your clients, increase your nonprofit’s value to your community, increase the relevance of your nonprofit, and attract additional community support. Mission-centric advantages make it easier to fulfill the promises of your mission statement and the opportunity to help fulfill the mission statement is probably why you work at your nonprofit.

Advertise your innovations. Tell your clients how much better things are going to be now that you have added X to the process, product, or service. Tell your donors why your innovation is going to make their gifts more effective. Remember, what the donors care about is helping the clients achieve success. Anything that does that confirms that their gifts are going to the right nonprofit. Knowing that you have effectively used their gifts will help them be more generous.

Advertising your innovations (big or small) reminds everyone that your nonprofit is constantly striving for excellence. Small innovations happen frequently. Frequently communicate the changes in effectiveness and value. Think about how frequently you are notified that an App on your phone has be updated. Most of the time you are unaware of the nature of the changes. However, it increases your confidence that the App is still relevant and getting better.

Next Step:

Take time to use problems and challenges as opportunities to innovate

Use your workarounds to inspire permanent solutions that enhance your mission

Inform others, especially donors and clients, every time there is an enhancement

Only the enhancements that positively impact the mission, clients, or donors are worth reporting. While the others may increase efficiency, donors, clients, and your community are only concerned with the effectiveness of your mission. Their focus is on the relevance, value, and sustainability of your nonprofit and mission.

Take It Further:

Budget for innovation


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