Digital helps us do things in new, different, better ways. It helps us find creative ways to communicate, connect, campaign, research, investigate, and provide services and information to our beneficiaries and audiences.

Innovating means tackling a problem or an opportunity in a different way from how things are usually done. That unlocks people’s creativity and creates the conditions for new possibilities.

Digital innovation starts with questions like:

  • How can digital technology, principles or insight help us reach our goal or solve a problem?
  • How can digital improve the experience of our audience(s)/users/staff/beneficiaries?

For a digital solution to be innovative, it doesn’t have to be highly technical or complex. It can just be about making something new possible, or making an existing process more efficient.

It can also be about finding a creative solution to a problem, for example, making donations more fun through virtual gifts or engaging supporters through gamified rewards.

Innovation takes time, energy and effort. Organisations need to get comfortable with experimentation, and be open to failure. They need to create psychological safety, so teams feel comfortable sharing their learnings about things that didn’t work, as well as what did.

To make innovation a reality: prototype, launch, learn, amend, and try again.

Things to think about

  • Where would you put your organisation on the innovation landscape map?
  • Do you have an internal innovation team or project, or does innovation happen when someone external approaches you with an idea?
  • Have you been a part of an innovation project where people understood from the beginning that it might fail?
  • Do you cultivate openness to failure, for example, by encouraging your teams to consider that failed projects are a powerful source of learning?
  • Has your organisation used digital mindset/insights to find a new way of tackling a problem?

Innovation: five levels of maturity

1. Deprioritised

Innovation is not considered important, or is not happening at all.

2. Ad hoc

Innovation occasionally happens as part of existing projects.

3. Small-scale

There is innovative re-imagining of some aspects of products or services.

4. Coordinated

Joined-up innovation is evolving the organisation.

5. Embedded

A structured innovation programme is creating transformational change.


You Need an Innovation Strategy, by Gary Pissano, was written in 2015, but is still relevant. 

The Board of Innovation has loads of useful – and free – resources. 

Average score

Overall, for the innovation competency, organisations average out at level 2.9.

Scores by year

These graphs show the average scores for this competency over the last few years, expressed as a percentage.

  • 2020 58% 58%
  • 2019 60% 60%
  • 2018 58% 58%
  • 2017 48% 48%
  • 2016 42% 42%