Charities and not-for-profit organizations are often seen as lacking in their innovation efforts because in simple terms, they have less money to do it. Regardless of what a company defines as innovation or how their staff work, there is always a degree of spending that comes alongside this, whether in the ideation or implementation stage of any new innovation, which instantly puts charities and not-for-profits at a disadvantage. They simply have less money than most companies, because money and profits are not their primary drivers.
However, this stereotype is unfair to many organizations that fall into these categories, who either happily support innovation through investment or attempt it with smaller budgets than for-profit organizations. With everything that’s currently happening in the world, from the huge refugee crisis and starvation in East Africa, through to the potential loss of healthcare for millions of Americans and UK charities losing their funding after Brexit, charities are being forced to look at the challenges they face in new ways.
Many charities and organizations have taken up this challenge and there are several currently making a difference through their innovation efforts. We took a look at some of the biggest innovations, both that exist now and will likely exist in the future.
The days of bucket shakers has been coming to an end for a long time and are close to being a thing of the past. Instead of standing out in the rain for hours trying to collect for a worthy cause, people realized they could earn more by pushing themselves to achieve something and have people sponsor them to do it. This could be anything from running a marathon to not eating chocolate for a year, and is generally a positive thing as it both helps raise money for charity and most of the challenges are positive for the person undertaking them too.
This isn’t the innovation though, the ability to get hundreds or thousands of people to donate through a single platform is what revolutionized charitable giving forever. You now cannot look at your Facebook feed without somebody trying to get sponsors for their latest challenge, which may get slightly annoying, but ultimately shows the success that this innovative idea has had. Private companies like Justgiving, who has raised over $4 billion alone since they were founded, and not-for-profit organizations like Virgin Money Giving who’ve raised £540m, are testament to the success of online giving platforms.
Having an ability to quickly and easily communicate these links online has been a major revelation for charity giving as it opens up the possibility for one person to contact thousands of people, rather than just knocking on their neighbor’s doors to fill in a sponsorship form. It also means that people are no longer forced to chase up those who pledged after the event. The model adopted by Just Giving, a ‘for-profit-for-good’ model has allowed for significant innovation, with Anne-Marie Huby, Co-Founder of the company telling the Guardian ‘Our for-profit-for-good model has enabled us to keep investing in innovation to a much greater extent than we would have done if we ran JustGiving along charitable lines.’
Data has become a mainstay of our society today and is increasingly driving positive change in both the public and private sector. However, as yet, it hasn’t been able to have the same impact on charities. According to a 2015 survey, only 24% of charities had begun to effectively use data, with 82% of charities saying that when they have the correct data they simply do not have the time to effectively analyze it.
However, those that are using it are finding that it can have a huge impact.
Firstly it is considerably easier to find potential donations from people who are likely to support your charity. Simple data analysis on social media can allow for ads to be targeted at specific groups, to improve marketing ROI and increase the amount charities can make in donations. It also allows for personalized messaging to be sent out to specific demographics or about a particular issue, which is again likely to increase donations.
It also helps in the actual work being done by many charities and with open data now becoming increasingly common, charities have a better chance than ever to utilize it for their work. For instance, the same information that can lead a company to place a new branch in a specific area could show a charity where there is likely to be shortages in services or a concentration of people in need.
The use of things like lotteries, combined with modern technologies, has allowed charities to raise huge sums in ways they would never have been able to before. One of the leading components of this has been 50/50 in Australia. Here founder John Corry saw the opportunity to have a simple lottery system where the crowd at an event can buy tickets through an app, with the winners announced before the end of the event, with 50% of the total made going to the winner and 50% going to the charity. It is a simple concept, but one that has helped the company to raise in excess of 1.5m AUD so far.
This innovation led John to launch George2 (pronounced George squared) at Tatts Group, a gaming company in Australia, which aims to create innovative games that can allow charities to make further money through a wider variety of potential games in the future. The idea of a lottery for charitable or civic service is not a new one, in fact, in a recent interview John references the fact that both Ancient Rome and China used a lottery system over 1000 years ago to pay for monuments and infrastructure.
One of the challenges that the idea has had though, especially in Australia, has been regulations, with John saying of his time trying to start 50-50 ‘The regulators had never seen the concept before, so our first letter back… was actually a big no and about 12 reasons why we couldn’t.’ This kind of push back is what made the eventual success of the endeavor so impressive, and John may have created a model that could be replicated in countries around the world.