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There’s No “Can’t” in Innovation

I’m not a huge believer in the word can’t. I never have been. It comes from me being young and having parents that encouraged me to move mountains. Change can be difficult; I get that. Defeasance becomes a barrier that limits people’s ability to see what could be better. While tradition is important, it can also hold people back.

A few years ago, we had a chance to work with a ministry that was on the verge of shutting down. They came to us because a donor had heard about what was happening and intervened by providing them resources so that we could be involved. The Executive Director told me that they only had a few months left or the organization would be closing for good. The board had already been asked to resign, and the staff had been let go. We got to work.

In assessing this organization, we saw some functional aspects that needed to be changed, but the biggest thing we realized was that they required a mindset change. The organization was closing because of a lack of donor commitment. They had great donors in the past, but due to the economic crash and other variables, the previously committed donors could no longer participate. The model the organization had used in the past was not one that was unusual. They were reliant upon a few high level donors who were deeply connected to the work of the ministry.

While this model is great from a relationship standpoint, it threatens the viability of an organization.

Now, you might think that the solution to an issue like this would simply be to find more donors. In a lot of cases, that makes sense. But in this case, expanding a donor base risked the integrity of a highly relational donor connection. It got us thinking about other strategies. We realized there might be ways to monetize other aspects that would minimize the need for a large donor base. We developed a plan for them to generate most of the revenue through tangible things such as books, products, events, and resources. They were already producing these types of materials. Finding a way for them to grow using the tools they had made it so that in a period of 12 months, they were funded by products and events. Only 20% needed to be funded through the traditional approaches that they had with donors.

In talking about this new approach with the client, the biggest epiphany they had was that they didn’t realize they could think like an entrepreneur and still be a ministry leader. Somehow those things didn’t connect for them.

I believe we are wired to be innovative. I also believe that being innovative is something that we find throughout the Bible. God uses ordinary situations and ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Noah built an ark the size of a football stadium with his two hands and his family.

A shepherd boy took down the mightiest warrior of the day with a tiny stone.

Stop thinking something can’t be done just because you haven’t done it before or because no one else has before. Innovation in the Bible is all about our faith taking us to possible places and then watching God is something amazing. What does that mean for your organization?

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