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The Most Innovative Non-Profits and Charities

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Charities and non-profit organisations are not often synonymous with the word ‘innovation’. With limited resources, these organisations want to stick with ideas that they know work, rather than investing time and money into developing new tactics. However, the charities that are using innovation and design thinking to drive projects and fundraising are coming out ahead in the non-profit world.

Here is a list of charitable organisations that prove investing in innovation helps non-profits raise money and operate more effectively:

RLNI - H2Only - This UK based campaign asks participants to drink only water (no caffeine!) for 10 days to save lives at sea. As we saw from campaigns like the ice bucket challenge, mass participation campaigns can make a huge impact for charities. RNLI, the charity that runs this campaign, employs a marketing and innovation officer to come up with innovative ways to fundraise.

Shelter Scotland - HouseMate - With a growing number of disputes between tenants and landlords, Shelter Scotland decided to disrupt the system with their new app- housemate. The app creates a full digital contract for the tenancy, and has even expanded to become a full room/flat rental service!

FoodCycle - FoodCycle is using design thinking to scale their network and increase their impact. They identified the core challenges: local fundraising, and growth models, and invited parents and community members to test new ways to grow their volunteer networks.

Marie Curie Cancer Care - This charity is using innovation by employing a gaming based platform that makes charitable giving more fun! This is allowing them to reach a younger generation who may night otherwise give to charity.

WWF - WWF Switzerland ran an open innovation challenge to find the best solutions to problems such as energy efficiency, milk production and biodiversity. The winning ideas were given further support to develop and implement their ideas.

Scope - Scope utilised social media to get people talking about disability. They ran a campaign called #EndTheAwkward which used Buzzfeed and Reddit to engage with and expand their community. Scope used partnerships and innovative thinking to expand the reach of their campaign and raise awareness about their work.

Cancer research UK - Innovation is all about being flexible, and that’s exactly what Cancer Research UK embodied during the #nomakeupselfie campaign. The organisation hijacked the campaign on Twitter and asked people to donate by text. Many non-profits are reluctant to put resources into social media, but this campaign helped the charity raise over £8million in just 6 days.

The Young Foundation - The Young Foundations uses social innovation to tackle the root causes of inequality. They work with the public, private and voluntary sectors and in communities to strengthen their ability to effect change.

The Children’s Society - Giving Lab - This charity got feedback from it’s donors that they wanted more information on where their funding was going. The Children’s Society took this feedback and developed a mobile app to give supporters a real time update on how their donations are making a difference.

The Social Innovation Partnership - The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP) is a trusted advisor to public, private and social sector organisations seeking to maximise their social impact.

It’s great to see the non-profit world adopting open innovation and design thinking framework to increase fundraising and tackle social problems. Have another innovative charity to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!