Seth Godin on Innovation, Failure and Why Non-profits Should Stop Operating like Businesses | npENGAGE

Seth Godin on Innovation, Failure and Why Non-profits Should Stop Operating like Businesses

By on Dec 28, 2010


Non-profit Innovation

Non-profit Innovation

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Seth Godin has some firm beliefs and thoughtful insights when it comes to how non-profits can (and should) change the world.

Back in January of 2008 he told us (the non-profit sector) that we should be looking to use the internet in new and innovative ways to build community and engage our supporters because direct mail, although still a huge revenue source, was beginning to show signs of fatigue.

More recently Godin spoke with the Chronicle of Philanthropy about Innovation, Failure and Why Non-profits should stop operating like businesses. I though you’d enjoy the interview.

After I watched that I immediately thought about what fundraising looks like today and how the internet and digital communication has affected the non-profit sector over the years. Here’s a quick peek into some key statistics.

[Troublesome] Fundraising Stats

  1. First Year Donor Retention is 29.3%
  2. Fundraising Email Response Rate is 0.13%
  3. 67% of donors plan to eliminate or reduce support to nonprofits that over‐solicit
  4. Only 26% of Nonprofits Rated their Websites Very Effective
  5. Recurring Gift Donors only accounted for 10% of all US Donors

You can read more about these stats and find the source studies over at Non-profit Trends. My buddy Steve does a great job keeping us all on our toes by bubbling up useful data points for us to evaluate as we continue to figure out how to use the internet in the non-profit sector.

My Question to You

Taking into account the post from Godin in 2008, his recent interview and the semi-troublesome statistics above … How can we continue to innovate in 2011? How can we continue to push the limits of the internet, social media, online fundraising, email communication, etc?

Or maybe a better way to think about the situation is to surface the things that have worked? The ways non-profits have innovated in the past two years?


Frank Barry, formerly worked at Blackbaud helping nonprofits use the Internet for digital communication, social media, and fundraising. He’s worked with a diverse group of organizations including LIVESTRONG, United Methodist Church, American Heart Association, Big Brothers Big Sisters, ChildFund Int’l, InTouch Ministries, Heifer Int’l, University of Notre Dame and University of Richmond. Along with writing for industry publications like Mashable and Social Media Today, Frank facilitates discussions, presents solo sessions and organizes panels for industry conferences such as NTC, SXSW, BBCon and numerous others. When he’s out and about he enjoys talking to interesting people about how they are changing the world – check out his interviews. Say Hi on Twitter – @franswaa or Google+

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