The state of non-profit innovation

Evolve IT recently came across a thought provoking report that sheds light on the exciting changes occurring on the non-profit innovation front. While non-profits have traditionally lagged in the technology space, Give Easy found that the non-profit sector’s Innovation Index score has grown by 9% in 2017.  Among the Innovation Index’s top 3 non-profit pioneers is The Movember Foundation, one of Evolve IT’s valued clients.

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The report was computed based on a study of 1,000+ non-profit industry participants and evaluates performance on a 100 point scale across eight distinct areas. Each vector represents a key element that contributes to a non-profit’s overall ability to innovate: internal collaboration, technology, organisational velocity, external collaboration, culture, innovation focus, rewards & recognition and stakeholder centricity.

Give Easy found that scores across all eight vectors improved within the last year. This has enabled non-profits to engage in a digital transformation that has expedited product and service lead times and enhanced collaboration and networking for broader community reach. Technology, adopted for collaboration, engagement and digitalisation remains the strongest vector at 68.5 points. ‘Internal collaboration’ and maintaining an ‘innovation focus’ follows at 67.5 and 66.6 points respectively. As outlined in the report, "while many [non-profits] are using technology to promote their cause, innovative non-profits are using it to gather information, to analyse trends and to collaborate.”

These optimistic results point towards matured non-profit sector understanding and appreciation of the utility and influence of technology. Stakeholder Centricity appears to be a unanimous non-profit focus as the vector soared by 11.5 points from the previous year. This correlates to a global economic shift towards the customer and their experience. Cure Brain Cancer Foundation was highlighted as 2017’s most innovative non-profit for their data tools and capabilities. Data insights are used by Cure Brain Cancer Foundation for strategy, program and content design that better target the behaviours of key stakeholders in the brain cancer community.

Areas restricting innovation are ‘rewards and recognition’ and ‘organisational velocity’. Both vectors refer to workplace acknowledgement of innovative behaviour and organisation adaptability respectively. In order to cultivate a dynamic culture that values experimentation and growth, employees must feel that their innovative efforts are valued. Extrinsic and intrinsic motivation is therefore a vital incentive for knowledge sharing. Non-profits can encourage risk taking and critical thinking by adopting a soft model approach to human resource management and a horizontal organization structure.

Pioneering non-profits build upon a creative workforce and then look beyond their organisation domain for external knowledge and ideas. This underpins change management best practice and builds the foundation for a strong innovation strategy. The report also reinforces the criticality of an effective innovation strategy, one that clearly delineates challenges and opportunities. Give Easy found non-profits with an innovation culture experience higher organisational performance with 48% of innovative non-profits reporting income growth within the last year. In contrast, non-profits without a clear innovation strategy experienced a weaker Innovation Index score overall.

Read the full report here.


At Evolve IT we’re passionate about helping others and take pride in empowering not for profits (NFPs) through technology. Whether it be by assisting collaboration, streamlining communication or enabling an ever more mobile work force.

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Posted by Sophia Lin

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