26 April 2018

Innovation in the NFP sector for business growth

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Being innovative means taking risks, hence why the term ‘innovation’ is not always synonymous with the not-for-profit sector.  Most not-for-profit organisations don’t see the need to innovate, as they often implement conventional ideas and outdated business models that worked in the past, rather than invest their time, money and limited resources into developing new strategies. As a result, the sector struggles to remain sustainable in a competitive environment whilst trying to tackle the important social issues they set out a cause for.

So how can not-for-profits improve the way they think and operate while remaining sustainable?

To begin with, like any other sector and organisation, NFPs must first accept that change and uncertainty is unavoidable. With drastic decrease in donations, changing market dynamics, technological disruption, social media evolution and the constant fluctuations in government funding are just some examples of the new normal in an already competitive environment. It has never been more imperative that NFPs now need to start thinking outside the norms and be innovative with the way they run their business. 

Some key areas that help drive operational sustainability in NFP:

  • Keeping innovation simple an open
Innovative businesses are ones that improve upon established practices and focus on efficiency.  NFP organisations need to identify where innovation is needed by evaluating its value proposition, operating environment and business model.  Look at everything to see how you can set yourself apart from the competition. From campaign messaging, fundraising techniques, staff relations, even look at possible alternative services that can help be innovative if it brings something new to the front.

  • Driving a commercial mindset
Commercial awareness in the NFP sector is about having an understanding of the business world and its changing dynamics. This can be achieved by donning the commercial lens which helps NFP organisations develop their unique selling point. It is imperative to identify the position you occupy in the social space that differentiates you from the rest in a constantly changing market.

  • Changing culture and innovating from the top
It is inevitable that NFPs need to innovatively change their thinking model and mentality of operations. This starts with a change in internal culture and leadership mentality which needs to be filtered down through all levels of the organisation.  NFP leaders need to ensure that there’s a clear vison that the organisation is working towards while also ensuring all staff to work towards a similar goal. Once you have this leadership mindset, you need to develop a mission strategy to embrace and drive change, rather than shy away from it.

  • Internal and external collaboration brings better results
Australia Post and digital giving provider GiveEasy commissioned a report into the Innovation Index of the Australian Not-for-Profit Sector. According to this report, working together internally is a great way to fuel innovation. The report identifies that successful organisations also look beyond their four walls, developing innovation externally and working across boundaries for a common purpose – the NFP sectors who perform best at maintaining external networks are Youth, Social and Public Welfare.

To know more about how NFPs can innovate their business, attend the NFP Business Growth and Innovation Forum scheduled for June 19 – 21 at the Grace Hotel Sydney. Leaders from some of Australia’s most prominent not for profits will gather their successful case studies on how to make an organisation stand out, grow and bring its staff with you on this ever-changing journey towards innovation and sustainability.


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