We’ve interviewed Adeela Warley, CEO of Charitycomms, about their new innovation report. 

1.Do you think the charity sector is innovative?

Well I think it’s a mixed picture, but the overriding feeling is that much of the sector still remains risk averse when it comes to innovation. Charities  haven’t yet shown themselves to be embracing innovation as other industries have done to be honest. As the author we worked with for this report, Alex Scott, puts it, ”There remains a misconception that innovation is unwieldy, expensive, untested and untestable.” That is why we wanted this guide to challenge this view, highlighting some great examples of charities testing out different approaches to achieve better results in the process.

The impetus for change is often driven by the recognition that improving what we do and how we do it is essential if we are going to thrive and survive in a rapidly changing environment. The digital revolution has also given us the means and the culture to test and learn quickly.

2. What needs to happen for the sector to be more innovative?   

I hope our guide will help show that innovation starts with clarity about your organisational purpose and about the audiences you want to engage. Innovative thinking can come from anywhere in your charity and need not cost the earth. It’s about adopting a new mindset and the behaviours to support it.

Trustees and senior teams must show leadership, modelling the behaviours giving teams the permission and confidence to take risks and learn from failure to improve.

3. Tell us about the CharityComms Innovation Report and why people should read it. 

We’ve created an extensive learning hub, full of useful advice and real examples from the charity sector and beyond. We hope this resource will help charities understand how innovation can drive them forward. With a focus on communications the learnings can be applied organisation-wide and will be invaluable to those looking to embed innovation in their work culture.

So many people have shared their experience and knowledge, so we’re hoping the community will be inspired to learn and test out the ideas and practical tools that feel right for them.

4. How can charities innovate on a budget?       

Make best use of your organisational intelligence, talking to frontline staff and your communities – they will have their fingers on the pulse. Involve them in the product development and testing to hard-wire their lived experience into your product. This will help ensure your product meets a genuine need and is smart and easy to use. Prototyping can avoid unnecessary expense and save time  – weeding out less successful ideas quickly and helping invest budget where it will have most impact.

5. What can we learn from other sectors about how they innovate? 

I think we can learn a lot from fundraisers in our own sector – they are always trying out new things, measuring responses, tweaking and trying again.

Alternatively corporate giants like Apple and Netflix are famous for embedding  innovation into all aspects of their business. From staff recruitment and retention, creating workspaces which support collaboration and creativity, rigorously taking a customer led approach, rewarding fresh thinking, testing and learning – all to keep ahead of the pack and ensure the best customer experience.  It’s not just tech and media companies we can learn from though. Other great examples include outdoor clothing company Patagonia who created a brand that built the best possible products for customers, while protecting the earth at the same time. In 2011 they turned the traditional business model on its head by launching a campaign called “Don’t Buy This Jacket” – telling customers not to buy what they don’t need and think twice before they spend their money. It’s a values- based example which should resonate with the charity sector.