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Take the Lead: Four Core Principles of Innovation

Take the Lead is a new blog series from Teri Nestel, president and CEO of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. In this leadership-focused series, Teri will share her insights and leadership lessons alike.

Evolution is derivative of innovation.

When I reflect on the growth of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, it’s pretty remarkable to think how we’ve evolved from an annual fundraising telethon to a leading network of children’s hospitals across the U.S. and Canada. What began as call-in donations have evolved into support from millions of people across the globe, valued corporate partnerships, and award-winning fundraising programs.

Leaning into innovation and imagining new possibilities has always been part of our cultural fabric. Over the past four decades, we’ve worked hard to create tools and programs for ‘tomorrow.’ By meeting people where they are with engaging experiences and simplified donation processes, we create opportunities for everyone to make a difference. Here are four core principles used to guide our organization’s innovation efforts.

  1. Identify the Unmet Need. The world is full of possibilities on what could be the next major initiative. Intimately understanding the desires and preferences of our advocates along with listening to their wants and needs is always our first step to intentional design. Take, for example, our most recent test with touchless givingTM. We heard clearly from many of our supporters their desire to donate in person but feel restricted by their lack of cash on hand and short amount of time. These insights paired with the rise in contactless consumer habits initiated our Ideation team’s exploration.
  2. Discover New Possibilities. Our teams have the foundational inclinations to guide exploration into new territories based on a strong understanding of what matters most to our advocates. Multiple factors determine the path taken, but keeping abreast of new technologies, market shifts and experiences are paramount to our discoveries.
  3. Test, Learn, Adapt. Discovering what works and how the market reacts to a new opportunity is critical to our innovation process. Whether we validate our concepts or gain new insights from failures, essential learnings of our testing process always influence our more comprehensive strategies.
  4. Push for Scale – Always. We aim to reach as many advocates as possible in the most economical way with any of our new concepts or tools. Maximizing these assets across multiple programs and partnerships has many benefits, including simplification, growth of corporate partnerships and increased fundraising for our member hospitals.

Progress isn’t made sitting on the sidelines. Children’s hospitals are close to breaking points as we continue through this pandemic, and the need for fundraising has only increased. Yes, innovations will impact the nonprofit sector overall, but our mission is what’s most important.

And if we can make the donor experience as motivating as the cause, we’re leaving our mark for years to come.