It has been a while since I posted an interview here. Tonight I would like you to meet a lady who inspires me a lot. Meet Lucy Gower!
Sylwia: How did your adventure with innovation start?
Lucy: In 2007 when Childline joined the NSPCC there was a restructure in fundraising and an Innovation Team was introduced. I was appointed Innovation Manager and this was the start of my adventure in innovation. My remit was to help fundraisers be more creative in their thinking to deliver better fundraising. I developed a strategy and process for innovation, which included delivery of innovation training for all fundraisers to help embed a culture of innovation. It is a topic that I find fascinating. I love helping others to think differently and apply that thinking to their fundraising to get better results.
Sylwia: Where do you blog?
Sylwia: Are you using other social media tools to promote your ideas and work?
Lucy: I’m a big fan of Twitter, when I first started using it I was a bit sceptical, but my advice to anyone would be to decide your objective for using Twitter (or any social media tool) and just give it a try. I learn so much from others on Twitter and use it to collect my thoughts and inspiration. In the olden days (the 00s!) I would write my thoughts and ideas in a notebook. Now I tweet and collate. I’ve also met some great friends and colleagues through Twitter. I use LinkedIn a lot too. It’s a great tool for making new connections and keeping in touch. I’m starting to use other sites like Storify, Stumbleupon and Google + but my first social media love is Twitter.
Sylwia: What do you think it the main challenge for nonprofits in embracing innovation?
Lucy: Nonprofits are very risk adverse and this is a big barrier for developing innovation. We are afraid of failing, which often means that we fail to try. Innovation does involve risk, if something is new, it might not work, but there is also risk in just doing what you have always done. The world is changing and charities, like any other business, have to seek to better understand both their customers and the changing market environment and be able to spot and act on opportunities. There is a perception that innovation is for big charities with big budgets seeking to develop the ‘next big thing’. This is a barrier. Innovation is part of every fundraiser’s job, it’s about finding improved ways to work more effectively and raise more money. Many charities feel innovation is a ‘nice to have’ as they prioritise short-term income at the expense of investing in longer-term funding strategies. It is important to have the basics in place, however planning for the future and being in a position to respond to a changing marketplace is crucial for long term success.
Sylwia: What do you think will be the man trends in innovation in the UK nonprofit sector in 2012?
Lucy: More charities are being more strategic about innovation and thinking about what innovation means for them and how it can help them deliver better results, for example developing an innovation team, or training staff in innovation and creativity skills. In tough economic times, the ability for organisations to develop imaginative solutions to both differentiate themselves from the competition and improve their fundraising is vital. In terms of trends, I think there are big opportunities to raise funds from gaming, and from location based applications to link donors to specific projects and provide real time updates on how their donation makes a difference. But for a lot of charities innovation isn’t necessarily about new sexy products or services it’s about getting basics right, for example, a database that’s fit for purpose, a regular giving programme, a major gifts strategy, exceptional stewardship and flexibility to respond to opportunities.
Sylwia: Where can we meet you off-line?
Lucy: I’m based in London and can travel! I’m currently in Australia having just finished presenting at the Fundraising Institute Australia conference on the Gold Coast. You can get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07919 173 042 or Skype lucy.gower3.
Sylwia: What advice would you give to anyone interested in driving innovation within their organisation?
Lucy: Innovation must be driven and modelled by leadership. Consider what your organization needs to achieve through its innovation strategy. It could be raising more income or awareness, developing new products or services, or developing a collaborative working culture that increases staff retention and results, often it is a combination of all of the above. Each organization will have it’s own unique needs; innovation is not a one size fits all strategy. That’s what makes it such an exciting area to work in. If you would like any help – get in touch!
Lucy Gower is an independent fundraising trainer and consultant specialising in innovation. Twitter @lucyinnovation. She is back in the UK for a few weeks now, so feel free to get in touch!