Sunday, August 12, 2012

BIG’s Blog: Innovation

Did you see the article about creating lockers for customers to pick up orders locally at grocery stores, drug stores, etc.? Apparently, one of the problems that online retailers have is that people follow UPS trucks around and steal packages that are left on doorsteps. This has happened to us and probably to you as well.

Now forget for a minute that the issue that drove Amazon to set up these local places where people could pick up their packages was thieves; does this ring a bell with something that I wrote about regarding an idea for the U.S. Postal Service?

Let me refresh your memory. From my blog of last December 18th; Where Is The Postal Service Going?

“The key move in saving the postal service as a business will be the cost saving transformation of how they distribute the mail. Home or neighborhood and business delivery will end. Every person or household and business that wants to receive mail will have to get a Post Office Box but they won’t be at post offices. Post office buildings will cease being retail outlets. Interesting enough, this change will set off a bidding war by retailers such as CVS, Walgreen’s and grocery chains to host neighborhood boxes. Retailers will love having postal patrons coming into their stores once or more times a week.”

The goal here is not to point out how smart I am… far from it… in predicting this type of similar solution by comparing the Amazon response to a very real threat to their business and the similar non-response to the financial problem that the Postal Service is having. Rather, it is to point out how organizations (like Amazon) that have to make a profit to stay in business come up with innovative solutions to solve real problems rather than A) complaining about how unfair their lot is, B) continuing to miss revenue goals and provide increasingly poor service, or C) doing nothing.

The word for the way Amazon and others positively find solutions to problems is called “Innovation”… our middle name, by the way.

So are fundraisers “innovative” in dealing with the problems that they face in continuing to grow donations? My answer is YES. In fact, I would say many individual fundraisers and their staffs are ingenious in coming up with solutions or work-arounds to vexing problems.

But, it is one thing to tinker with a process that is part of a whole methodology that still works, and another to come up with a solution to a problem that is completely different and never seen before, such as the fundamental shifting of the fundraising model that fundraisers have used for 50+ years. At times like this, internal innovation is difficult, if not impossible. Why? Because nobody in the organization is on familiar ground.

Is this a time to bring in outside expertise? Maybe?  The only reason to ever bring in outside expertise is when you don’t have the internal expertise, and only for a set period of time. The same applies to some programs and services.

But the key point is when your organization is fast with a significant threat, it is best to positively act to innovate, rather than doing nothing.


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