“Innovation” – the word that stops readers who could benefit

When you read “innovation” in a business context, to do skip on to the next thing?

“Innovation” sounds like a concept for big company marketing where they can afford to have consultants wafting around talking stuff no-one understands, that will never happen, that has nothing to do with survival in these tough times.

But innovation, the current marketing fad, is as old as business. Not the “Look, I just invented the iPhone” level of innovation. More the, “Hey if we can shorten waiting times by just 25%, looks like more customers will choose us,” or “A third of our complaints are about this, but perhaps we could change the way we do it.”

This is practical, small steps at a time innovation that in the real, tough world adds up to survival and moving ahead.

It’s concrete. It’s small steps. And we know it works: there is a direct path from the first cave dweller who tried to barter something, right to the door of your business, and it’s paved with innovation.

The big buzz, right now, is the wider recognition that you don’t have to sit around waiting for innovation to happen and hoping it will be something relevant and within your scope: innovation can be fostered and even directed.

It’s something that can be done at low cost, even no cost. It’s something you can do, no matter how desperate the times. The more desperate, the more you should do it.

Fortunately, you practicalities of an innovation program are already fairly well documented. Like most marketing fads, deliberate and channelled innovation has been around for a long time.

So you can do it, with low risk.

What can you get out of it? Well, that is unknown. Solutions, yes. Staff engagement and enthusiasm, yes. Customer engagement, yes. Sales and cost reductions, yes. An element of random business magic? Actually, yes.

All of these, or any one in particular? Maybe. Innovation is definitely related to creativity. You can stand an artist before an easel and tell them to paint a flower, but there’s an element of chance in whether you get Van Gogh’s Sunflowers or a Laura Ashley print pattern – or something you couldn’t sell in a garage sale.

 

Let’s get practical: your first innovation project

 

 

Why NFPs should be crowd funding now

Why should a not for profit be diving head first into crowd funding? Three big reasons.

Crowd funding for cash

First, well of course, money. New money that you wouldn’t have got otherwise, that is unlikely to cannibalise your existing income streams. Money that is independent of government and its strings.

Crowd funding to reach Gen Y Millennials

Appealing as that may sound, it’s not the main benefit. The real benefit is that crowd funding puts charities in touch with Gen Y Millennials.

Most charities, their supporter base is primarily middle-aged to older people. These are people who grew up in a tradition of organised community self help. They commit to organisations and tend to stay with them. They join.

But the people coming to adulthood now have a very different view. They do things spontaneously. They go for events that appeal to them. They support causes and especially outcomes. They don’t join. They are less likely to commit long term.

Like this or not, charities wanting a future have to engage and learn how to work in ways that attract Gen Y support. But many charities are seeing the average age of their supporters creeping up, a year every few years. They are staying with the same democratic cohort, moving through. To have a future, or even just to reach more of their potential audience, they have to learn how engage.

Crowd funding is an ideal way to get started. Gen Y Millennials get crowd funding. It’s once off, cause related, it’s about outcomes. It’s personal and involving.

This is the big payback for getting into crowd funding now. Engagement with hard-to-reach but essential-to-your future Gen Y Millennials.

Crowd funding to expand your database

Oh, and third? Most successful crowd funding projects are built around social media and rely on generating multiple generations of contact: people you know tell people they know, they tell people they know…

A good crowd funding campaign can significantly expand your database of potential donors, beyond your normal reach.

Time to reconsider crowd funding

We’ve been recommending for the past year that NFPs take a serious look at crowdfunding, but most have been held back by a degree of doubt and uncertainty.

Two new pieces of information and a recent announcement should encourage a re-evaluation.

Australians for Mental Health, a newly formed national body, announced October 8th  that its launch appeal had raised more than $43,000 in a few weeks, from direct donations and via (Australian) crowd funding platform Chuffed. Australians for Mental Health is backed by some big hitters, but the point is: crowd funding for NFPs works in Australia right now.

Earlier this week the leading Australian crowdfunding platform, Pozible, which has half a million supporters, released a detailed report based around the milestone of its 10,000th project – just a week after it topped $40 million in pledges.

Pozible raises for business and personal projects as well as charities and these projects typically offer rewards for donations (for example, a music project may offer a free copy of the eventual CD), but Pozible reported that one donor in three chose no reward.

“We’ve found crowdfunding in Australia is still more about giving than getting,” project advisor Elliot Chapple is quoted as saying. “Especially when there’s a really compelling story involved.”

Pozible reported surveying hundreds of supporters asking why they gave, with the top response by a wide margin being “I love supporting people and their stories.”

And recently Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivered on his promise to legalise crowdfunding via sale of shares, bringing Australia in line with recent US changes. This is a very significant shift that will see a big increase in local activity.

Getting started in crowd funding

Convinced?  Good. But I’d like to close with a couple of points that are really important.

Crowd funding is not like ordinary fundraising moved online. The emotions are quite different. The motivations are different.

Crowd funding campaigns are traditionally short, 4 to 8 weeks. But planning for them is long, at least as long again if you want to get it right. An 8 week wind up is good.

If you’d like to learn a little more about crowdfunding, contact me. contact me. If you’re an NFP, you get a free initial consult.