What Does Innovation Mean for Nonprofits?

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 Beth Kanter kicked off Day #3 of NTC with a session characteristically full of zingers and tweetable one-liners (e.g. “Is innovation like porn – we know it when we see it?”). But the session wasn’t just about soundbites; it was full of insight too. Here are some takeaways to supplement the poster above:

  • Innovation doesn’t come from organizations. It comes from individuals with ideas. However, one person cannot create innovation if s/he isn’t part of a team that’s willing and ready.
  • It’s hard to find funders who will fund a risky idea – they usually want case studies an proven techniques. So philanthropists have a huge responsibility to rethink and innovate around their relationship with nonprofits, no matter what their gift-size is.
  •  The stakes for failure in the nonprofit community are so much higher in the nonprofit community than in the for-profit community. If people fail in marketing a product, a few people lose their jobs. If people fail in an intervention model, you can destabilize a society.
  • Innovation is driven by iteration.
  • Sometimes great innovation comes from not knowing any better and being unaware of the status quo. It frees you to think differently and pull ideas from new places.


Plenary: Innovation & Nonprofits
Brian Reich, Laura Arrillaga-Andreesen, Meg Garlinghouse, Greg Baldwin
Moderated by Beth Kanter
Thu April 5rd 8:30-10:00

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