4 Nonprofits Leading the Way in Innovation

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While the nonprofit industry tends to fall at the end the curve when it comes to innovation, that’s not the whole story. There are exceptions—organizations and leaders that have made it a point to embrace innovation in unique ways and accomplish remarkable things.

These forward-thinking nonprofits are a reminder to us all that:

  1. It can be done. Nonprofits can be at the front of the curve when it comes to adopting and implementing innovation.
  2. It can make a tangible impact on your bottom line. These organizations are not just trailblazers, they’ve seen measurable positive results from innovating.

4 Organizations & Nonprofit Leaders Who Found Success by Embracing Innovation

Since seeing is believing, here are four real-world examples of nonprofits doing innovative things:

1. charity: water

charity: water, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing clean and safe drinking water to every person in the world, has built a reputation as an innovator. Founder and CEO Scott Harrison has a background in marketing and event promotion and constantly uses the principles he applied in business to the way they raise support.

One of innovative things charity: water has done is their Dollars to Projects program. When an individual makes a contribution to charity: water, once those funds are dedicated to a project, the nonprofit sends the donor an email with a “completion report” detailing how the funds were used—including pictures, results, and even GPS coordinates. Scott understands the importance of creating a “wow experience” and communicating ROI on every project. This mentality ensures charity:water provides an experience that is personal and impactful—helping to build strong, lasting relationships.

2. University of Alabama Athletics

The University of Alabama has one of the most popular athletic programs in the country. When the University of Alabama athletics department realized many of their fans weren't graduates or season ticket holders, they needed a way to reach them. They also faced the challenge that many fans didn't understand why donating to an athletic program is important.

Athletic Director Bill Battle and the leadership team recognized the power of digital fundraising to solve both problems. In 2014, Pursuant partnered with the program to implement a Plant Your Flag viral marketing campaign, encouraging supporters to visit a website to a plant a flag on a map where they lived in the country to show their support for the Crimson Tide and share the site with friends. This innovative campaign resulted in the collection of valuable data, increased supporter engagement, and acquisition of new donors.

3. Compassion International

Compassion International provides aid to more than 1.35 million children around the world, it’s a challenge to maintain the same level of aid in every country and keep donors connected to the life-changing results of their support. Led by CEO Santiago "Jimmy" Mellado, Compassion International has taken an innovative approach—using technology to improve its day-to-day operations.

One way Compassion has done this is adding Neuron ESB software to connect all its management systems and streamline communication with its 11 partner countries. The software acts as a universal translator, helping to close the communication gap. As a result of this focus on integrating innovative new technology, Compassion International can be more quick, flexible and efficient in carrying out its mission around the world.

4. Moody Bible Institute 

Moody Bible Institute is one of the oldest Christian universities in the country. They rely on donors to provide free tuition to students. Their EVP & COO Steve Mogck has a background in the hotel industry and has led the organization in finding ways to leverage solutions common in the for-profit space.

In addition to investing in technology-enabled tools that are common in the for-profit industry, Moody also has embraced innovation in their efforts to reach donors and raise money. In 2013, Moody partnered with Pursuant to launch an interactive virtual marathon that offered incentives for supporters to join an online race and recruit others. Prizes included high-value rewards like an iPad, Bose headphones, and a trip to Israel. Of the almost 35,000 participants that engaged in the Moody Marathon, more than 70 percent were brand new email names.

What Role Will Your Nonprofit Play in the Story of Innovation?

What do these four organizations and their leaders have in common? They pay attention to trends in the for-profit space. They're constantly challenging their own status quo. They are moving fearlessly into the future of fundraising.

The real question is: Are you ready to join them?

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