Friday, January 24, 2014

BIG’s Blog: It’s About You – Part 1

Over the holidays and between fielding calls and signing up people for our online learning program’s Winter Term, I had the opportunity to reach out to many people I hadn’t talked to in a while and catch up. Some called me after receiving our “Video Christmas Card,” and, yes, that was my pregnant daughter as Mary carrying the Christ child.

In most of my conversations – and, sorry, I couldn’t connect with all my friends – I tried to be intentional in asking questions about how you viewed your fundraising in the coming year [2014] as well as any trends you were noticing.

I’ve got to tell you that some of what I heard actually surprised and delighted me.

Apparently the words “disruption” and “innovation” are taking hold in many of your minds. I’d like to think I was partly responsible, but, hey, in 2013 those words were everywhere. They obviously are making it into our consciousness and lexicon.

So, over the next few blog posts, I’m going to summarize some of the trends around disruption and innovation that I heard from you. I will try to add context and hopefully bring to the subjects some clarity.  

Today we are going to focus on the words “disruption” and “innovation.”

Several of you talked about how you were trying to use digital and social tools to break into new groups of younger potential supporters. One even said, “ I want to build innovative disruption into the culture of our organization.”

Clearly, more and more fundraising groups are looking at digital and social tools as the means to carry their organization to new audiences.

My question is this: How does disruption and innovation play in your current culture?

There is no question that digital disruption is affecting virtually every industry, and we know that nonprofit fundraising is not immune. But if you are going to be a disruptor, don’t you need to first develop an innovative strategy that pulls together the people, resources, new processes, and the “change” culture to make it work?

In his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen suggests adopting the successful idea by other groups facing disruption. That idea is to create a separate group tasked with using the new disruptive technology. This is what Federated Department Stores did back in the 1970s when they saw the rise of discount retailing. They didn’t try to change their department stores, rather, they set up a new retail group with its own people, processes, plan, and culture. Today we know that discount retailer as Target.

I realize the idea of setting up a separate online group focused on using new digital and social tools within your fundraising department might sound strange to fundraisers, but our clients are doing it even as I write this. Leave your direct mail and planned giving areas alone! Send a small group down the hall, to a different building, or to another city with all the online tools (including the Website) and charge them with bringing in younger supporters.

I am hearing loud and clear from many of you the understanding that either you are going to be innovative or be disrupted. It’s a stark choice, but to those who are reading this, I suggest you seriously think about being the innovator!

If you are really going to attempt to let digital and social tools successfully reach younger potential supporters … you can only do that by innovating your status quo.

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