“The movement towards outcomes-driven philanthropy has done a lot to diminish creativity,” concluded one CEO at a recent GMA Foundations’ NPO Conversation on creativity. At this regular lunchtime forum, leaders of seven Boston-area nonprofits were asked to open up about their organization’s most creative moments, their innovation wish list for 2012, and obstacles to organizational creativity. Judging by the conversation, creativity and innovation are still essential to the daily existence of these organizations. The question, though, remains: Is outcomes-driven philanthropy affecting creativity?
The nonprofit sector frequently serves as the creative sector for a better world. Nonprofit organizations are ideally positioned to study problems, frame creative solutions, and develop models for scaling. Indeed, creative uses of technology have transformed the way most of these nonprofits connect with new audiences, expand their networks, and reach new donors.
Technology remains high on all the leaders’ wish lists as they seek creative, scalable models for change.
At a time when creativity and innovation are seen as essential to competing globally and to solving some of our most difficult social issues, the quality of this country’s education is increasingly measured by standardized test scores. Similarly, philanthropy is measured more and more by outcomes data.
Data certainly can drive great decisions. However, relying solely on data might rule out untested innovation. For obvious reasons, donors don’t want to fund failure, yet great achievements in science, technology, and the arts would not have been possible without experiencing failure first. Solutions often lie in extensive trial and error and in daring action.
Are creativity and innovation present in your plans for 2012?
Judy Sneath is communications officer at GMA Foundation, a member of the Council on Foundations.