Innovation: places to start

GOOD_Thinking_innovationIt’s been remarked that Innovation (along with that old chestnut Inspiration) are both words that are over-used and under-explained at conferences like IoF. So I thought it was worth jotting down what Innovation means to me – what is and isn’t, and where it starts.

You might have a different view. But it’s probably more about terminology.

For me, the context for innovation is that charitable giving is simply not a natural habit for a large part of the UK population. It’s why, despite huge growth in ambition, efficiency, targeting and channels, charitable giving remains at around 0.4% of UK GDP.

That’s the same, as CAF has pointed out, as the UK spends on cheese.

And it’s the same as it’s been for 20 years.

When GDP grows, the amount we raise grows too. That’s good. But the proportion never changes. We’re not growing giving itself. We’re not appealing to more people. Instead, we’re just getting better at fighting each other for the same pot of money, largely given by the same people.

Innovation should allow us to break out of that stalemate.

It should help us find new ways to raise money that appeal to the people who won’t otherwise. That might mean framing giving as something new. A product or experience you buy. An investment you make. A person you interact with.

There are plenty of drivers for innovation. Our programme and policy colleagues are changing the world in new ways – which should deliver new things to ask for. Technology is enabling people to become banks, lenders, investors and even B&Bs. New platforms are enabling people to connect in new, authentic ways. And new models blur the line between business, charity and individual. All of these drivers provide the basis for new ways of doing things.

If that’s what innovation is, then what isn’t it? In my mind, it’s not a way to ask for the same thing more cleverly. It’s not a new donation form, or a new place to make the same old ask. It’s not a new way to ask someone for a direct debit.

It’s a new way of looking at how your charity gets to do the work it needs to do.

Because at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

Bring it on.