August 1, 2017

Resources: Is Your Nonprofit Built for Sustained Innovation

Most nonprofit leaders believe that to advance their missions, they must imagine and create new approaches to solving vexing social issues. When The Bridgespan Group, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, surveyed 145 nonprofit leaders on their organizations’ capacity to innovate, 80 percent reported that innovation is an urgent imperative. However, just 40 percent believed that their organizations were set up to do so, despite the need to overcome growing regulatory uncertainty and increased competition for funding, talent, and influence.

Read the Article

By: Laura Lanzerotti, Nidhi Sahni, Amira Bliss , Daniel Pike

What does it take for a nonprofit to continuously reimagine the status quo and thereby amplify its impact? Through our research, we have identified six elements that are common to nonprofits with a high capacity to innovate:

  1. Catalytic leadership that empowers staff to solve problems that matter
  2. A curious culture, where staff look beyond their day-to-day responsibilities, question assumptions, and constructively challenge each other’s thinking
  3. Diverse teams with different backgrounds, attitudes, and capabilities
  4. Porous boundaries that let insights and information flow into and across the organization
  5. Idea pathways that provide structure and processes for identifying, testing, and transforming concepts into solutions
  6. Ready resources in time, funding, and tools—all vital to supporting innovation

The Stanford Social Innovation Review article, “Is Your Nonprofit Built for Sustained Innovation?” explores each of the six elements, providing guidance and examples for nonprofits that aim to continuously come up with novel solutions to today’s challenges.

Related Resources

Building the Capacity to Innovate: A Guide for Nonprofits

In 2017, The Bridgespan Group and The Rockefeller Foundation surveyed the leaders of 145 nonprofit organizations. Nearly 80 percent reported that their organizations aspire to innovate. And the majority reported that innovation is critical for their organizations. Unfortunately, less than half of respondents feel their organizations have the capacity to innovate. This guide can help. It has been created to help organizations build their capacity for innovation and includes tools to do so: an overarching framework, learning modules for different parts of the framework, exercises and a worksheet for setting plans and priorities, and more. Download the guide from The Rockefeller Foundation’s website >>

Innovation Capacity Diagnostic

Developed in conjunction with The Rockefeller Foundation, this diagnostic can help organizations understand their current capacity for innovation and serve as a discussion tool to help strengthen that capacity. Download the diagnostic >>