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BIG’s Blog: Who is Clayton Christensen? Part 2

So what is the lesson that nonprofit fundraisers can take from the example raised in Part 1 of this series about Professor Clayton Christensen and his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma?

First and foremost is the realization that change happens and your fundraising business model … the way you do fundraising … is no exception.

Except that …

Except that the change from analogue to digital that society and we are going through is way more than the run-of-the-mill changes/iterations that we have been through in the past. This change is “shifting” society.

For fundraisers, the shift in communications from analogue (print and ink) to digital is as big as “discount retailing” was to the 1950’s Dayton Hudson department stores, or the invention of “digital photography” was to Eastman Kodak.

In Part 1 of this series, we shared the success of Dayton Hudson in creating a new and separate division for discount retailing named Target, and the failure of Kodak in attempting to transition their whole business model from dependence on film to digital photography.

So what do we as fundraisers learn from these examples?

First, even though you can see the handwriting on the wall saying a new innovation is the wave of the future, you must still bring in revenue today. . . as well as figure out how to make the new innovation work for your fundraising organization. Don’t abandon your current business model if it’s still working (the way Kodak attempted to do). Leave it alone and untouched. Today it is providing revenue even though that revenue will decline over time. Maximize and optimize existing revenue.

Second, use the Dayton Hudson model for innovation by creating a totally separate, new operating group that, in the case of fundraisers, is 100% online. Let it have its own separate plan, employees, and budget. From day one, make it clear that the goal of this new group is to be self-sufficient and to (as quickly as possible) be raising its own revenue, separate and apart from your current fundraising team.


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