True innovation is not always about some great new idea. It often involves taking what we know and applying it to the real world, perhaps in some new way or through a different process. In philanthropy, innovation is often incremental in nature rather than groundbreaking – it’s part of a process that requires more than a quick fix.

It can be about looking creatively at available resources. It can be about creating different incentives that can change systems and lives. It can be about turning traditional ideas on their head to uncover less obvious needs and funding opportunities.

How can donors bring a “beginner’s mind” to their work, and encourage innovation that could lead to greater impact? TPI and our clients use a variety of methods. Donors can:

  • Bring together grantees who are working on similar issues.
  • Go beyond grantees and engage the recipients of services provided by nonprofits to gain a deeper understanding of issues, as well as input in crafting solutions to problems.
  • Conduct an idea scan to seek input from a variety of experienced practitioners, experts, researchers, and other leaders in a particular field.
  • Convene diverse practitioners, creative thinkers, and others for an Idea Lab or deep dive to analyze data and knowledge relevant to a particular issue, explore ideas from other fields and disciplines, and spark fresh ideas and creative thinking.
  • Solicit ideas through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

Read the full article about embracing innovation in philanthropy by Leslie Pine at The Philanthropic Initiative.