Leading Innovation: Innovation Grants Recipients

By / Nov 15, 2013 (Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

The ASAE Foundation’s Innovation Grants program supports innovation exploration and development in the association community. This year, the three organizations below, along with the American Alliance of Museums, were the first grant recipients.


The Colorado Nonprofit Association maintains a helpdesk for members who need advice on common nonprofit issues. But without a dedicated staffer, responses can be slow. “The questions tend to fall to the bottom of many lists of to-dos,” says Director of Education and Programs Londell D. Jackson.

CNA’s On-Demand Educational Toolkits are designed to help members help themselves. A website allows users to take a comprehensive organizational analysis in a particular topic area, such as advocacy, or dive into rich-media content resources on that topic.

CNA is beta-testing toolkits for three topic areas so far. Success would mean fewer helpdesk calls. It would also mean increased visibility for CNA. “Hopefully, as more people become aware of the usefulness of the tool, we’ll see greater demand for and use of the tool itself,” Jackson says.


For the past decade travel budgets have been tight at The International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking, so CEO Cindy C. Crouse, CAE, doesn’t see her members’ facilities as much as she’d like. That was a key inspiration for THINK! Outside the Box. IADD assembled all the hardware necessary for recording a plant tour—tablet computer, mobile hot spot, and more—into a box and sent it to member sites. Once the tour is recorded by a member, who answers prewritten questions from IADD staff, the box goes back to IADD headquarters for refurbishing and then is sent to another member. Three boxes are in circulation.

The tours help IADD staff to understand member needs and educate members. One member, for instance, highlighted materials and processes members rarely get to see in action. “There are so many ways you can learn from what’s being shown, even the storage of materials and the layout of a shop,” Crouse says.

The interviews will ultimately appear on the members-only area of IADD’s website. Crouse said leadership discussed putting a price tag on the videos but decided against it. Their thinking: “Let’s do this for the basic good,” she says. “Let’s make this one of the core pieces of membership. Let’s sell membership based on this.”


The Association of American Medical Colleges has enjoyed success with innovative ideas and products, but some have come from lucky breaks. Its Accelerate! program applies a structure to its efforts, in part by making the whole staff a part of it. For example, the association held a competition for an AAMC Innovation Fellow who would attend a program at the Mayo Center for Innovation. People used AAMC’s internal social network to make a case for why they should attend and what new ideas they thought they could bring back. Six finalists were selected to make presentations that were voted on by staff. “People did all sorts of creative things—one team wrote a song, someone else made a video, one person even wrote a haiku,” says William T. Mallon, senior director, strategy and innovation development.

Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. More »


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