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Why Innovation isn’t a ‘nice to have’ for Not-for-Profits

“There is nothing permanent except change” was once said by the Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus.  And many years later, this timeless wisdom resonates strongly in today's rapidly evolving world where the landscape for not-for-profit organisations is continually shifting. For not-for-profit organisations striving to create social impact, an innovative mindset has never been more important. This article aims to shed light on why taking an innovative approach is critical for the social sector to survive and thrive.

There is Never a Perfect Time to Innovate

I sometimes hear leaders say they are waiting for ideal conditions before prioritising innovation. With demands on services constantly rising and resources under pressure, the pace of change also shows no signs of slowing. 

The most innovative leaders often have the same constraints, these challenges are the nature of the sector, but what they do differently is they view innovation as essential and so they do what they can within those constraints, even if it's not perfect.

Being Innovative is Being Adaptable

As leaders we need to adapt to constant changes in our operating environment. We must recognise that we cannot control external factors like changes to funding structures, legislation, community needs or pandemics. However, we do control how we respond. 

Being an adaptable organisation means being resilient to change, which allows not-for-profits to evolve their services and stay relevant as the world changes, no matter what is thrown at us. 

Not Innovating Means Going Backward, Not Staying The Same

What are the costs of inaction for both your clients and your organisation, if you stay the same whilst the world changes around you? Failing to innovate doesn't just mean staying where the organisation is today - it means falling behind. By being stagnant and not innovating, it puts the future success of the organisation and the support it provides at risk. 

Embracing innovation is not merely an option for not-for-profits—it's a necessity for survival in an ever-changing world. It’s about looking at what we can do from where we are today, not waiting for better conditions. The people our organisations support need us now more than ever, and it's our duty as leaders to ensure we keep ourselves relevant and continuously improving what we do, so we can continue to meet their needs.

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