A few weeks ago we presented a rather provocative session at the Institute of Fundraising Convention along with Brian Higgins, former CEO of Pieta House–which produces the world’s largest single day peer-to-peer fundraising event called Darkness Into Light. (Think 200,000+ participants, 150 locations, 19 countries and 5 continents!)
We shared our story about what it was like working with Pieta House to optimise the revenue performance of Darkness Into Light over a three year time span…a story about innovation that resulted in enormous success…but wasn’t without a dose of hardship.
And now, we thought we’d share with you the five insights on innovation which we’ve learned along the way…
#1 Innovate as if lives depend on it. Innovate because lives depend on it.
It’s those lives (and livelihoods) that are at stake that is your best excuse for innovation…the best reason for making big, long-term investments in things that will help you grow. And we’re not talking incremental growth. We’re talking systemic, scalable growth. The great causes of the world need that kind of thinking and that kind of investment. You need to innovate with a sense of urgency. Certainly, diplomacy has its place in charity, but it must always play second fiddle to need.
#2 Innovation must first be a mindset. And not just your own, but of the team around you.
Make sure you have the right people “on your bus”…people that have an innovative mindset…people who believe that change is the only way forward. If you don’t have these people, train them. And if you can’t inspire them to think or act differently, then it may be time to recruit new team members who have a sense of “innovation” already in their DNA.
#3 Innovation often requires education and technology.
We’d encourage you to look outside of your own circles…even your own borders…to find new systems, tools and strategies that will support where you’re going…not where you’ve been. And that beautiful new “rocket ship” (strategy!) that you want to take your event to a whole other level…? Make sure you enlist experts who know how to design it, build it, optimise its performance and…most importantly, can show your team how it’s done so they can eventually do it themselves.
#4 Innovation isn’t easy.
Change isn’t easy… changing mindsets is not easy… and never will be. We think Gandhi said it best: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
If you find that your staff, board or volunteers are fighting you on innovation…you may be closer than you think to winning (and changing their mindset.) Stick with it. It’s worth it.
#5 Innovation involves failure. If you’re not failing, you’re not innovating.
As Dan Pallotta said in his famous TED talk… “If you prohibit failure, you will kill innovation. If you kill innovation in fundraising, you can’t raise more revenue. If you can’t raise more revenue, you can’t grow. And if you can’t grow, you can’t possibly solve large social problems”.
The innovative strategies that we developed and implemented across three years working with Pieta House on Darkness Into Light were certainly not perfect. But, despite the complications and setbacks along the way, we still managed to double the fundraising revenue of the event…twice. Even better is that we created a culture of fundraising amongst event participants which, we hope, will continue to flourish for many years to come.