Monday, November 14, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Can You Innovate?

Last week, my blog focused on the question, “Can nonprofit fund raising groups innovate?”

If you read other blogs or articles on nonprofit fund raising, you occasionally see writers addressing the topic of the need to innovate. Some pay lip service to the need for innovation, while others encourage it in “pep talk” language.

I’m from Nebraska, so I will use a football analogy. If the best high school football team in Nebraska had to play the University of Nebraska Cornhusker football team, who do you think would win the game?

You can’t play the same game when “what you are up against” is in another league.

To win . . . because THAT is what sport is about . . . you have to attempt to shift the game in your favor.

So, you fancy your fund raising organization as a very successful direct mail fund raiser. You’re mailing upwards of ten million pieces of mail yearly. Even with a postal increase . . . which is coming . . . today, you can still project generating annual excess revenue.

I guarantee you that there are other nonprofit direct mail fund raising groups that are bigger than yours. Their larger economies-of-scale will help them hold on even longer. But is that the goal; to hold on longer?

Even if my mythical Nebraska high school football team could somehow manage to make it to half time with the score tied with the Cornhuskers; do you really think they would be winning at the end of the game?

No; their only chance comes before the kick off.

Let’s say our mythical high school football team came out and said, “Let’s change up the GAME a bit, we’ll still play football, but it will be international football and by-the-way, that football is spelled futbol and looks more like what we Americans call soccer.”

What just happened?

Our high school football team just shifted the game to soccer with new rules and new playing techniques and calls for different kinds of players which maybe gives them a leg up. Remember, the point is to win the game. Technically they are still playing football . . . just not American football.

They couldn’t win at American football, so they changed their game.

You’re facing the same choice in your fund raising. Instead of playing on the easy, level playing field you’ve been competing on for 60+ years with direct mail, the field of fund raising is shifting to a new league with new rules.

If you are one of the 25 largest fund raisers in the United States, then you can hold on the longest. But, if you are not, you had better figure out how to come up with a new plan.

And if you don’t think that you can innovate by yourself, look for an outside resource that can help.


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