When the United Way told the story of their crowdsourcing program, Edwin Goutier, Innovation Lead at Unitd Way, said that one of the things that he hears a lot is that people don’t think of the United Way (or nonprofits in general) as innovative.

The more I thought about this, the more strange this seemed to me. It is actually more crucial for nonprofits to be innovative than almost any other entity. And here’s why:

Efficiency Matters. Nonprofits don’t have wild, always-growing budgets. And in order to be able to focus on their mission-based work, they have to be as efficient as possible. Usually these are the most common and easy-to-implement ideas in an ideation community: digitizing paperwork, updating policies, etc. And because saving money actually means that other budgets increase, people are almost always happy to trim the fat.

The Power of the Network. Nonprofits already know that they live and die based on their network of volunteers, donors, and community. Because they are already working with crowds, they have a built-in audience of advocates who can share ideas, build on the ideas of others, and volunteer to take those ideas to the next level.

Mission Matters. And missions inspire people to be creative, to advocate, and to try new things. There’s a level of urgency associated with problem-solving that it’s hard to tap into unless you’re at a purpose-driven organization. Just think – if a new idea is the thing that’s going to keep a child from getting sick or make sure that a family doesn’t have to go hungry, how motivated are you to participate in these programs? And these are the types of problems that nonprofits SET OUT to solve, so they’re always trying to innovate and find ways to better solve a problem.

United Way tested out their first crowdsourcing program last year and learned a lot in the process and they put together a list of tips to consider for nonprofits who are trying first-time crowdsourcing. You can check it out here.

By Rob Hoehn

About the author

Rob Hoehn is the co-founder and CEO of IdeaScale: the largest open innovation software platform in the world. Hoehn launched crowdsourcing software as part of the open government initiative and IdeaScale’s robust portfolio now includes many other industry notables, such as EA Sports, NBC, NASA, Xerox and many others. Prior to IdeaScale, Hoehn was Vice President of Client Services at Survey Analytics.

Featured image via Yayimages.