years ago, I was asked to join the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ Cause
Innovation Team. One of the only dedicated innovation groups of its kind, this
team was built based on a new strategic plan at CMN Hospitals that held innovation
at its core. The team consisted of senior staff from within the organization
with extensive experience in their own areas: corporate partnerships, annual
giving, creative services, public relations, IT and celebrity relations.
Innovation was tasked with the goal of exploring revolutionary ideas that would
have the capacity to raise more than $20 million at their maturity. The
experience has been awesome. We’ve learned a lot along our way, including how
critical sharing innovation is to the work.
on our path we had the opportunity to travel nationally and internationally to meet
creatives in the for-profit and nonprofit spaces. They openly shared their successes
and failures, along with their processes and tools with us. That experience
impacted our work as a team, and ultimately an organization, in a huge way.
made spreading innovation within the organization a big part of what we do. We
allocate time to help spark creativity throughout departments and foster different
ways of thinking about our work to bring new incremental revenues into the
system through all areas of the network. Innovating is now part of the CMN
Hospitals’ internal culture, a culture where disrupting and challenging the status
quo is encouraged.
In an effort to build innovation across the entire nonprofit space, we’re
hosting a one-day event to share what we’ve learned. It’s called Ignite: A
Cause Innovation Conference. The idea evolved from a gap we identified along
our way in the conference space, where charity was rarely being paired with
making ideas happen and actually giving cause professionals the practical tools to get curious and to
innovate in their work.
As we explored the concept, we talked to a series of professionals
in the cause space. We asked them if they were expected to innovate within
their role and each one of them responded by saying “yes, of course”. Some even
identified that they were held accountable to funds raised linked through implementing
new ideas. But when we asked them to tell us what they are doing to proactively
innovate in their work, they struggled to answer the question. What we heard
was that they didn’t know where to start and that finding time and budget made
being creative really hard for them.
Enter CMN Hospitals hosting Ignite. Interestingly enough, planning
this event has been a practice in innovation in and of itself. With no similar
conference to look to as a model, we built Ignite from the ground up. Our
checklist began the same as any other event would—location, content, speakers,
promotion—but with an emphasis on making it easily accessible and useful to
those who care about a cause.
We decided to hold the conference alongside CMN Hospitals’ biggest
annual event, Celebration, which made the most logistical sense primarily because
the risk was low. We were already familiar with the Orlando venue and we wouldn’t
have the added expense of rigging and all the other costly event elements, as
they would already be in place. Our Celebration
event is held annually for our hospital, corporate and media partners to come
together to continue to build new ways of raising funds to help save and
improve the lives of the children treated by CMN Hospitals in North America. This year, CMN Hospitals is celebrating our
30th anniversary. This milestone was another trigger for us on Ignite and its
content for our audience. Innovation has been at the core of our organization
from the beginning, which made this the perfect stage for a series of thought
leaders to arm our network with the tools necessary to innovate like never
before as we move into the next 30 years.
Establishing content was fairly straightforward, as we knew
first-hand the areas in which we most benefitted from our own innovation: ideation
process, finding the time and budget to innovate, collaboration and design. Our
biggest challenge was fitting all that information into a one-day program. In our
interfacings with innovators far and wide, we had relationships with an
abundance of brilliant people who could speak publically and were eager to be a
part of the event. Finally, after many meetings and emails, Ignite’s speaking
program includes business founders, thought leaders, designers, authors,
nonprofit principals and even a 15-year-old inventor. Principals
from UNICEF Canada, Charity Defense Council, The Wharton School at U of
Penn. and Walmart will share their strategies for thinking differently about
innovating for good.
But, of course, what is an event without attendees? Ignite’s
promotional campaign consisted of sharing streamlined messaging with our
primary audiences, which ranged from our partners to news media to other
charities like our own. A wide array of tactics were implemented, including:
utilizing speakers’ social media audiences; communicating through internal newsletter
and channels; speaking to CMN Hospitals’ own social communities; pitching trade
media publications; and advertising with cause-affiliated media outlets.
With the planning phase now complete, our Cause Innovation Team is excited
for Ignite to truly “catch fire” among cause professionals everywhere. It is
our goal for attendees to go away feeling inspired and empowered to be more
creative, and even curious, about their work—pushing and disrupting what they
do, and how they do it, for what they believe in the most. For more information
on the October 11 Ignite conference, visit: causeinnovationconference.org.
- Alison Portt, Cause Innovation
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals