How Innovative Nonprofits Can Help Boost Our Personal Creativity
It’s the season of giving, and many nonprofit organizations depend heavily on our end-of-year donations.
They deserve our appreciation and support year-round, of course, as they strive to address critical needs and make the world a better place. Running a charity is hard work.
Innovative nonprofits often fly under our radar for examples of creativity and innovation. They shouldn’t.
Just like we take inspiration from creative individuals and companies, we can get ideas and encouragement from charities to apply creativity to our own problems and goals.
What can we learn from innovative nonprofits about creativity?
There are innovative nonprofits that look at issues in fresh ways to find the gaps that need attention.
One example: microloans.
Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh invented the concept of microfinance years ago, shining a spotlight on an uncomfortable truth. His research revealed a gap and widespread disparity in banking practices that prevented impoverished citizens, mainly women, from getting traditional loans to support their small business ideas. He started a bank focused on microcredit to support these entrepreneurs. Read about how he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
(Along these lines, Kiva is a well-known charity bridging this gap through a system that lets any of us participate in micro-lending.)
What is a gap/unmet need impacting your life or those you care about?
A little of your own research might uncover an innovative solution available. Or, can you come up with ideas about how to fill the gap?
Sometimes these ideas are small and easy to tackle. Sometimes they’re bigger than us alone.
For example, I have an idea for a charity or low-cost service that would fill a gap in my world—helping a child with an intellectual disability achieve her education goals. No way for me to pull it off at the moment, but it’s sitting there waiting for the right connections or channels to get it out in the world.
There are innovative nonprofits that find fresh ways to tackle chronic problems.
One example is Drop in the Bucket, which isn’t the only nonprofit focused on establishing clean water sources for communities around the world. But its programs include a strategy twist in how to address this complex issue.
The twist came about when they still saw residents getting sick after installing wells. Getting to the root cause, they now install latrines at schools and teach students about proper sanitation. This spreads the knowledge within those communities to reduce related illness and death.
They also install wells at the schools so more children, especially girls, can come to school for an education rather than spend hours fetching water for the family. This responds to research showing that educating girls reduces poverty.
I’ve had a personal experience with strategy twists used by Room to Read, a nonprofit focused on children’s literacy and girls’ education. Their innovative book development approach involves hiring authors and illustrators from local and diverse communities to create stories for children in those communities.
They also use a collaborative book sprint process that brings creative teams together for a brief, intensive period to produce the books much faster than the typical publishing process. And they make the books available online for free while distributing free printed copies to book deserts. I was part of the sprint process a year ago that yielded my picture book, The Invitation.
I do a lot of strategy twists in my home life out of necessity. Maybe you experiment with twists more than you realize, too.
Are you stuck on a hamster wheel?
Is there something where you’re striking out on getting the results you need? Try pausing and looking for fresh approaches. (Go to my Creative Thinking Resources page for some techniques you can use.)
There are innovative nonprofits that develop surprising outreach campaigns and calls to action. These break through information clutter and compassion fatigue to make an impact.
One example is UNICEF Sweden’s “Likes Don’t Save Lives” campaign that challenged people to go beyond social media likes and actually donate or take other meaningful actions.
Another came from the British Stammering Association’s “I Stammer” campaign to challenge stereotypes and build confidence in those with this condition.
I find myself experimenting with messaging all the time—at home, at work, in navigating community activities. “It’s all about timing and framing” has become a go-to phrase for me.
How could you use creative messaging in your life?
What’s going on in your world where the messages—big, medium, or small—aren’t getting the results you want? How could you shake it up?
In addition to giving love to the charities that speak to your heart, be on the lookout for innovative nonprofits that can inspire your own creativity.
Creativity is about finding fresh perspectives, ideas, and tactics that get results.
Whether you have a micro need within your personal life or are going big with something that impacts a lot of people, ask yourself:
- Are there gaps no one is attending to because everyone is focused on the issue from the same perspective? Can you help close a gap in some way?
- Are the usual approaches to a particular need getting results? Or is it time to try a strategy twist?
- Is it time to experiment with your messaging and communication approaches on a particular issue?
Let me know if you’ve had success with any of these strategies. Or if you want to do a shoutout to a particular innovative nonprofit.
Let’s learn and embrace creative problem-solving together!