Rodney W. Nichols, past President and CEO Emeritus of the NY Academy of Sciences, is Senior Advisor to the Alliance For Global Good. firstname.lastname@example.org
Many medium-sized non-profits teeter on the edge of failure — not necessarily bankruptcy, just settling for mediocrity and less impact. Why? Most are so overworked –- solving urgent social problems, meeting their payroll with uncertain funding — that they hardly have time to envision new possibilities.
Rarely do they have sufficient financing to invest in fresh directions. So they skimp on preparing for the future. They just muddle through.
Yes, they do achieve results – in fact, often large benefits. But usually there is potential for much, much more. Doing more takes innovation.
And innovation takes imagination, energy, and persistence, and yes, funds! You can’t just muddle through. Ben Franklin had it right. Recall that he was a marvel of an innovator, a creative force for a thriving civil society – he created the volunteer fire department and the public library. He said: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Franklin knew you must push hard thinking about the future.
This insight animated the Alliance For Global Good in creating the Innovation Fund in 2012. The Fund challenges non-profits to think creatively about how they can earn revenue to serve their missions. Earning revenue promotes missions.
The Fund awards grants for jump starting action on a non-profit’s mature business plans. For two years the Fund has shown how well this works. See www.afgg.org for the list of remarkable grantees across the world in many fields.
This year the Innovation Fund prepares for its own future and seeks donor-partners. Franklin would be proud of the Fund’s ambition as well as its prudence. Yet questions remain. Will traditional donors, stuck in old paradigms about non-profits, see the power in this new idea? Will donors see that non-profits need incentives, and capital, to become more entrepreneurial? The IF management will find out.
Let’s have no more muddling through.
Rodney W. Nichols
Senior Advisor to Alliance For global Good
President and CEO emeritus, New York Academy of Sciences