IT and data Leadership

Innovation: How do you do yours?

Ahead of CFG’s Innovate for a Better Future event on 2 February, we talk to three of our expert speakers about what great innovation looks like and how you can embed an innovation mindset in your organisation.



When we think of the word ‘innovation’ we tend to picture new technologies, digital projects and huge budgets. But if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that it is as much about our people and processes, attitudes and approaches as it is about shiny new toys. And out attitude/approach?

Catalysts of change

In 2020, three quarters of charities made greater use of digital and technology and two thirds have innovated to deliver services remotely. Most charities embedded new technologies and systems at pace, and we all had to rapidly learn new tools and skills.

In 2022, where are we now? Can and should we continue to innovate? And if so, how?

Paul Hayward is Director of Fundraising at hearing loss charity RNID. When the pandemic hit, the charity had to pivot quickly to deliver new services and content in new ways.

As for so many others, the crisis opened the door to rethinking the old and ushering in the new.

The main thing the pandemic has reinforced for me is the need to stay relevant in a changing world,” comments Paul.

“Being open to change and responding to events in agile ways can help to deliver profit, but also meaningful impact.

“Regardless of the pandemic, our world is changing more quickly than it ever has before. Matching that pace, not being left behind and adapting quickly over the last two years has been more important than ever.

“As we move forward, that pace of change will only continue.”

Jean-Francois Bessiron is International Vice President at Groupon and has spearheaded numerous large-scale successful projects for both Groupon and former employer, Amazon.

He comments: “Technology is shaping and changing our daily lives including how individuals interact with, and support, charities.

“To continue to be successful and remain relevant, charities need to think about how they can support and foster innovation within their own organisations.”


Relevancy and impact

Relevancy and impact are the reasons for embedding an innovative mindset, but how do we recognise great innovation when we see it?

“Innovation is an output of cross-functional efforts that touches many areas including culture, organisation design and resource investment,” says Jean-Francois. “It also requires persistence and long-term focus.

“Great innovation removes ‘pain’ points, externally or internally, or unlocks new capabilities that did were not recognised before. It comes in all forms, small and large, and does not need to be expensive or have long timescales. High adoption is usually a clear sign of success!”

Jo Kerr is Director of Impact and Innovation at Turn2Us and leads the charity’s Impact and Innovation Directorate. She agrees that great innovation is about impact. Jo explains:

For Turn2us, innovation means implementing new and creative ideas to improve the lives of the people we exist for and introduce better ways of working. I think that could be different for different organisations – I’m not sure we could have one cross-sector definition.

I strongly believe in linking innovation to impact so that we can always be clear our innovation work is increasing our impact. We work to understand and improve the impact of Turn2us through data analysis, research and evaluation. When we can see gaps for greater impact that’s where innovation comes in and a lot of that is digital innovation.”

Data-driven and agile

The picture is similar at RNID where they’ve rapidly innovated their services and processes. Paul continues: “Very early on in the pandemic we saw substantial pieces of research suggesting large volumes of donors in the UK would consider terminating their support of charities who were not relevant to the pandemic itself.

“As the pandemic has continued, we have developed an approach to innovation that allows us to deliver test-and-learn activity quickly, monitor the results at different levels of the charity in transparent ways, then scale work up if it’s successful or shut it down if it’s not.

“This agile approach to innovation and fundraising development has driven the development of new products and propositions used in the team.

“Moving forward we’ll continue to approach new product development in this way, continuing to diversify our approach to income generation.”

Empowering people

Developing and embedding an innovative mindset within organisations is a -goal, worth shooting for. For Jo and Turn2Us, it’s about empowering everyone to try new things – and the confidence to do that links back to the charity’s values.

“Everyone at Turn2us is responsible for innovation in their own areas – from our new finance system to fundraising,” states Jo. “While we have skills and resources in our team, we’re not trying to annex innovation or stop others from being innovative – it’s the opposite of that.

“Our values of ‘Listen, Learn, Improve’ and ‘Impatient’ are very closely linked to innovation. For me, it’s about being curious and open to learning and then being quick to try stuff out – if it doesn’t work we can move onto the next area to test.”

RNID is well on its way to embedding innovation in its culture too. Paul concludes: “People feel more confident, empowered and enthusiastic about trying new things. It’s a change I dearly hope will become part of our DNA moving forward!”



If you’d like to hear more from Jo, Paul and Jean-Francois on the subject of innovation, join us next week at our Innovate for a Better Future event.

Also speaking will be Gareth Mulcahy, Head of Product: Events and Sports, Cancer Research UK; Naziar Hashemi, National Head of Social Purpose and Non Profits, Crowe; and Daisy O'Reilly-Weinstock, Director of Big Bets, Good Innovation.

We look forward to seeing you there!

This post was last reviewed on 28 January 2022 at 12:10
« Back to all blog posts