In early March, CANGO partnered with the GKWCC to launch the KW Non-Profit Innovation Grant. While you can get all the details on the grant here (including how you can nominate a local nonprofit organization to win), the response from this initiative has underscored the need for greater communication and innovation in the non-profit sector. Moreover, the feedback we’ve received indicates community and innovation are more strongly linked than one might assume.
For most non-profit organizations in the Greater Kitchener Waterloo area and across the nation, there are simply aren’t the funds to try new ideas. While the non-profit sector struggles with an absence of wiggle room to innovate, the for-profit sector budgets in innovation under a different guise: research and development. In fact, some corporations spend more than 13% of their total revenue investing in innovation with minimal risk. R & D, whether in the for-profit or non-profit spaces, is essential for developing new ideas, processes, and practices.
However, the non-profit sector finds itself in an environment that discourages innovation and experimentation. Reliance on grants and a lack of core funding have made the risk of innovation too high—a single unsuccessful attempt to grow a program or offer a new service is enough to jeopardize future grants. That’s a high stakes gamble, and not one that many non-profits are willing to make. For many organizations in this situation, even a small infusion of capital can help build the bridge to take innovation from a buzzword to an action plan.
However, we can’t assume that an infusion of capital is the singular solution. It’s important to note that innovation doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Unlike the for-profit sector that values intellectual property, patents, and opacity, innovation in the non-profit sector is a fundamentally collaborative process, thriving through transparency and open communication with other community organizations. Through sharing our stories and experiences, the collective knowledge of the non-profit sector grows, and innovation becomes a diffused and communal process. While the colloquialisms are boundless – iron sharpens iron, two heads are better than one – they highlight the irrefutable principle that we achieve more when we work together.
Social media presents a free, efficient way to help jump start the dialogue around non-profit innovation. While it can’t (and shouldn’t) replace face-to-face conversations, town hall meetings, and non-profit associations, it can play an inflexible role in the transfer of knowledge and experiences within our region. The sharing of our stories and experiences lays the ground work for an innovative, collaborative and active non-profit community. Even organizations without the bench strength to spend all their time tweeting can take 5 minutes a week to see what information and ideas their colleagues are sharing.
The KW Non-Profit Innovation Grant isn’t intended to be a long term solution – it’s a starting bell. When the non-profit community works together, the result is an engaged sector creating better, people-focused outcomes. Sharing ideas and stories is at the heart of helping reshape the non-profit sector from a competitive space to a collaborative one, and we hope you’ll play an active part in the process. For all the info on the KW Non-Profit Innovation Grant and how you can help increase its size and nominate your favourite organization, follow this link.
Jonathan Rivard is the founder and CEO of CANGO, an award winning social enterprise in Kitchener Waterloo that works with Canadian grantmakers and non-profit organizations.