Innovation: It’s No Longer an Option

Here at D+C, we refer to Nils Smith as our ‘Chief Strategist for Innovation and Social Media’ but he describes his job this way:

“My job is to run ahead of ministries so I can help them do more ministry.”

And by running ahead, he’s referring to a crucial component of any organization or ministry: Innovation. We talked about this concept on a recent Dunham Podcast episode…

Nils, what does innovation look like practically? And how do we, as a company, stay committed to it?

Nils: Innovation at its core is this: How do we get better? It always starts with a goal in mind. Often for us, the goal is around fundraising. Sometimes it’s around media or maybe SMS text messaging.

You first have to ask yourself, “What do we want to accomplish?” And then, “What tools or resources do we have?”Then you decide if it’s something worth investing in. Because you can’t do everything.

Trent: And I think part of what you have to be committed to is failure. You have to be okay with not batting a thousand. Do you find that it’s hard to break people out of their shell in that regard?

Nils: It depends on the leader and how they’re wired. Some leaders just move slowly. They’re processors. And I think part of what’s happening is that we’ve been used to TV and radio slowly evolving, but now, technology like social media is radically changing year after year. Strategies are constantly shifting and that’s hard to stomach for a lot of leaders.

But then we see some leaders who are almost hyper-innovative, and that’s unhealthy too.

For instance, I want to do new things all the time, but then I forget about the things right in front of me and lose focus. Neither extreme is good, you have to navigate that tension and ask, “What are the right things to pursue, and what are the things we need to change? What are the things we need to stop doing?

As a company, I feel the ministries we work best with are those that are ready to push the limits. They are ready to do what it takes to grow and to reach more people. And that almost always requires innovation.

One of the things I’ve been very focused on is cryptocurrency. We’re 10 years away from cryptocurrency really being a significant currency in the way we exchange goods and services. (And that’s a guess, we really don’t know.) But the question is, when do nonprofits really begin to engage? We’re talking to them now because we want them to be ready when the time comes.

Sometimes innovation means a big shift and other times its simply changing database systems. It could be a brand new app or technology. Sometimes it’s deciding to do one more video a week on YouTube. Recently for us, it was starting a podcast and investing in the equipment, production, and distribution of it.

Always be willing to turn some knobs and see how you can get better. Because the reality is, with the speed that things are going, innovation is no longer an option. It’s a necessity.

For more insight into how your organization can embrace innovation and ‘get better’, be sure to listen to The Dunham Podcast episode, Accomplish Your Goals through Innovation with Nils Smith.


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Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information.