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    By Peter Lannoo • February 18, 2021

    For Nonprofits, Not All Innovation Is Created Equal

    When innovation occurs during a crisis, people take notice. In this case, Eli Amdur highlights the work of Amanda Missey at the Bergen Volunteer Medical Initiative (BVMI) in New Jersey. Comparing her embrace of telehealth during COVID to the cutting edge of the for-profit industry, Amdur notes that “nonprofit leaders generally have to deal with crises or other extenuating circumstances with scarcer and more guarded resources than are available to their private sector counterparts”. Of course, this kind of innovation should be recognized, and BVMI’s work helps provide care to the underserved.

    For Nonprofits, Not All Innovation Is Created Equal

    This kind of innovation doesn’t have to be hampered by resource scarcity. In fact, when innovation is applied unequally, it can limit an organization’s progress.

    Nonprofits often focus on delivering new, cutting edge services without updating their support structures. If resources don’t scale, the services can’t grow and innovation is relegated to a “feature”. Amdur touches upon this piecemeal approach by referencing the wilderness experience: “when there’s no choice, one realizes that the only way to cross that wilderness (of venturing into new territory) is to take the first step into it.” And Missey’s leadership to encourage BVMI to take that first step is commendable. 

    But many organizations stop with one foot in the wilderness and one foot out. While promising innovative services, their resources are stuck in the twentieth century. 

    “When there’s no choice, one realizes that the only way to cross that wilderness (of venturing into new territory) is to take the first step into it.”

    Compare this approach to Shakespeare Theatre Company’s solution from early 2020. Recognizing that while their doors were closed and staffing was limited, they needed to do more with less. They focused on where their resources were coming from. To offset the lack of ticket sales, the Theatre needed to raise more money from donors. By scaling their fundraising approach to engage more of their donors, they have been able to raise more money to offer an array of virtual performances and classes. By focusing first on their base, the Theatre is now able to branch out and innovate in a critical moment.

    New and improved services draw the spotlight, but processes don’t always share the same newsworthiness. However, by building up a base of solid, scalable resources, organizations then have the freedom to branch out and offer new and exciting possibilities to constituents without stretching their funding too thin. You can’t go where you’ve never gone before with minimal provisions. Your resources need to be as robust and innovative as your services.

    How are you innovating in the face of adversity? Let us know how you were able to tackle the challenges of 2020 and connect with Gravyty today.

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