Too Little Creativity and Innovation

It happens often, We, as fundraisers see a clever concept to resource a non-profit and say, ‘what a good idea!’ Sadly, there are too few such good ideas. The world of fundraising is drowning in the same old (often boring) concepts, many of which don’t work, or the returns are not worth the effort. And, often when a great idea emerges from the tedium, it’s copied and replicated to the point of becoming another flogged-to-death same old concept…

The NPO sector is admired for its innovation in addressing many of the crises and tragedies facing society. In my over three decades of fundraising for and consulting to southern and South African non-profits, I have been blown away at much of the innovation underpinning some NPOs’ projects addressing problems (often services that government should be providing, but doesn’t).

Why does the same creativity and innovation not find its way to the resourcing of most of the country’s over 300,000 organisations? Of course, the basics must be in place as there are no shortcuts. Proposals must be written and application forms completed and submitted; funding from government must be sought; applications must be made to the Lottery, despite its ever-narrowing guidelines and ice-berg-like pace of response; fundraising events must be planned (not just another boring chicken dinner); individuals must be asked to give time or money. But what else could be done? What can be done differently to excite CSI or foundation decision makers? What can entice individuals to support a specific organisation in a world where they are overwhelmed by requests but underwhelmed by so many uninteresting ‘asks’? Which crowdfunding campaign could be planned that will fire people up to donate and share and have it exceed its target in record time? What innovative and lucrative income generation concept could be embarked upon to earn money and reduce the amount to be raised? Our sector is not only in need of money, it’s also in desperate need of creativity and innovation in it’s offerings to potential donor and volunteer partners.

My concern, based on many of the requests that I receive when people book consulting time, is that I am regularly asked, ‘how can we raise more money?’ and very rarely asked, ‘what do you think of this idea?’  Creative people will attest the numerous whacky ideas that come to nothing – but at least they produce them! Many concepts won’t work, but how can one know without considering them?

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