What would you do with a $10,000 innovation grant?
Innovation: the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs…
Changing business models is a pressing priority for most associations. There is a strong emphasis on innovative solutions to address unique and complex challenges of the 21st century. But how do you find the resources and support to begin such a project?
ASAE wants to help you pursue innovation in your organization. The Innovation Grants Program provides awards to support innovation exploration and development in order to raise awareness and engagement in innovation efforts for the association community. Grant recipients receive $10,000 to dive deeper into innovation and get support to implement their project ideas, creating models of innovation for the entire association community. Learn about past recipients and their projects in the “Past Winners” tab below.
Who is eligible for the 2015 grants? It’s likely that you are! The intended audience for the Innovation Grants Program is the creative individual interfacing with the association community from all angles of the organizational spectrum. Therefore, individuals from professional or trade associations, nonprofits, association industry partners, and consulting companies that serve the association community are eligible to apply. All applicants or applicant teams must include at least one ASAE member.
In serving as a champion and role model for innovation, this exciting program represents one element in ASAE’s commitment to increase the credibility, approachability and culture of innovation in the association community.
Important Dates and Events
2015 IGP application period opens
"How-to" session at ASAE Annual Meeting (see FAQs)
Letter of Intent deadline (see FAQs)
"Live Chat" on application process, questions, etc. (see FAQs)
Application period closes
Grant recipients announced
The intent of this grant program is to help successfully implement new ideas. However, we understand that not every innovative idea becomes an innovation. Many fail. That’s the nature of experimentation.
Therefore, while our goal is innovation, what we’re really looking for is innovative ideas — along with a plan to apply those ideas. We’re supporting organizations and individuals to try new things.
If you are wondering whether your new program, product, service, or process qualifies as an “innovative idea,” consider these questions:
- Does it seem innovative to you?
- Do you hope it will create new opportunities or significantly improved ways of doing business?
- Does it represent a speculative venture that could succeed or fail?
- Is it new for you or your organization — and also not standard practice in the industry? (If others have tried something similar, with any degree of success, that’s okay with us, as long as it’s new and not commonplace. In fact, you might build on the concepts of innovative project you’re observing elsewhere.)
If your answer to all four questions is yes, your idea will probably sound innovative to our review committee as well. As you can see, we’re not defining this narrowly because we don’t want to limit your creativity. We encourage you to imagine what might be possible, share one of your best ideas with us, and explain to us how our funds can help you apply that idea. Whether it succeeds or fails, all of us will learn from your efforts, and these lessons learned will continue to support and encourage innovation.
When reviewing applications, we also consider:
In looking at a proposal’s potential significance, we examine how well the project plan addresses the IGP objectives — raising awareness of and engagement in innovation efforts in the association community, fostering new networks for nonprofit innovation, and creating a comprehensive body of knowledge around innovation initiatives, programs, and models. We also consider the relative importance of the organizational issues the project addresses in relation to the larger association community. We look for projects that will be significant within and across organizations and address issues that are common to similar organizations and industries.
Project Design and Practicality
The project design should state specifically the actions and process by which the project will address the underlying need and achieve the objectives. In order to evaluate the design, we must have a good sense of what you intend to do and how you intend to accomplish your tasks. We look for a vision, a plan for integration, and projected next steps that are carefully considered and clearly articulated. The methods for achieving project objectives, the desired outcomes, and the process for evaluating plan objectives should all be well-defined and understood.
Applicability and Transferability
An essential element for this program is finding projects that can serve as inspiration for other organizations and industries facing similar challenges, problems, or opportunities. IGP intends to grow innovation in the association community but also seeks to share models for innovative efforts. Therefore, we examine each proposal with regard to broader application, adaptation, and transferability.
We are looking for projects that will have long-term effects for recipient organizations and their constituents. We look for projects that can potentially shake up organizations by implementing new ideas, creating new models of engagement, and transforming organizational culture. We take into account the project’s potential for far-reaching impact and/or appeal to multiple stakeholders within and across organizations, and we consider the measurability of market benefits, need, and future demand.
In addition to the above major criteria, reviewers also look at the project’s objectives, the applicant’s potential and commitment to innovation, the clarity of the application, the project management plan and budget, and the organizational commitment and resources.
Does your idea meet these criteria? Learn about the application in the Process tab!
Step 1: Determine the type of grant (see FAQs) best suited to your project and the team members who will responsible for your project, and start writing your proposal!
Step 2: Submit your letter of intent (see FAQs) by August 15, 2014.
Step 3: Submit your application. Each applicant must submit the following materials to be considered for the Innovation Grant Program:
- Proposal Application Form
- Proposal Abstract — (500 word limit) A succinct, yet comprehensive description of project goals and objectives, plan of work, intended outcomes, and measures of success.
- Innovation Project Plan — (2500 word limit) Should include a detailed description of the following:
- OBJECTIVES (What are the project goals and objectives?)
- SIGNIFICANCE (What is the project rationale? How is it significant and original?)
- DESIGN (What are the methods for achieving plan objectives, desired outcomes, and evaluating plan objectives?)
- APPLICABILITY and TRANSFERABILITY (How is it applicable to similar challenges within and across organizations? What can other organizations take away from this project?)
- INNOVATION (How does the project make something new, different, significantly improved, or enhanced in a creative way?)
- IMPACT (How will this project impact your organization's ability to develop and sustain a culture of innovation?)
- PRACTICALITY (Define the extent to which project objectives address cost-savings, increased efficiency of internal processes and productivity, improved employee morale, enhanced customer satisfaction, clearer communication throughout organization, or other target area for your organization.)
- Management Plan and Budget — An outline of proposed plan activities with related timelines with a budget detailing allocation of grant funds to specific plan expense items, including justification.
- Organizational Profile — A brief description of your organization, including industry type and resources available to support project objectives.
- Applicant Profile — A biographical sketch of the applicant (and each team member), including relevant expertise, commitment to innovation.
- Letter(s) of Support (Required for Travel Grant Only) — A letter from the organizational representative with whom applicant will work when engaged in travel program.
- Supplemental Materials (Optional) — Supplemental materials are not required. However, applicants are invited to submit a PowerPoint presentation (up to 5 slides), video clip (up to 3 minutes), or other supplemental material to communicate their innovation concept.
See our Top Tips for Applying and Frequently Asked Questions for more information about the application process.
If you have questions about the application process, the requirements, the criteria we use to assess proposals, or about the Innovation Grants Program, you can attend the “How to Session” at the ASAE Annual Meeting on August 10, 2014 or join the application “live chat” on September 11, 2014. You can also contact us directly with questions by emailing IGP@asaecenter.org or calling 202.626.2893.
- Who is eligible to apply for the grants?
The intended audience for the Innovation Grants Program is the creative individual interfacing with the association community from all angles of the organizational spectrum. Therefore, individuals from professional or trade associations, nonprofits, association industry partners, and consulting companies that serve the association community are eligible to apply. All applicants or applicant teams must include at least one ASAE member.
- What types of grants are available?
IGP awards are available in three categories: travel grant, exploratory grant, and hybrid grant (combination of travel and exploration).
The objectives of the TRAVEL GRANT are to 1) enrich learning experiences about the impact, value, and application of innovation; and 2) broaden exposure to cultures of innovation. The award is intended to support association professionals who wish to pursue educational opportunities in the area of innovation, specifically by visiting organizations or institutions that have a demonstrated commitment to innovation exemplified through strategic and tactical implementation. The award would enable the recipient to engage in state-of-the-art learning opportunities about processes that promote a culture of innovation throughout an organization, and to identify ways to apply the learner outcomes to the grantee's host organization.
The objectives of the EXPLORATION GRANT are to 1) develop new or different models of innovation; and 2) employ innovation tools to enhance existing or new programmatic initiatives. The award is intended to support the exploration, development or implementation of innovative activities — including a new process, product, or business model within the grantee's host organization. The award would provide financial support to facilitate bringing to fruition an emerging member or community need, or an alternative business plan.
- What is the “Letter of Intent”?
Though it is not required, you are encouraged to submit a letter declaring your intention to submit a proposal by August 15, 2014. The Letter of Intent should include the point of contact for your project, the contact’s title, the organization name, and the type of grant you intend to request.
The letter should be sent via email to IGP@asaecenter.org or by postal mail to:
Innovation Grants Program
1575 I St, NW
Washington, DC 20005
- What is the “How-to” session at the ASAE Annual Meeting?
Cindy Crouse, CEO of the International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking and a member of the 2013 IGP cohort, will lead a session titled, “How to Prepare a Competitive Application for the ASAE Innovation Grant Program.” The session will be held Sunday, August 10th, 2014 from 8:00–8:15 am. Anyone interested in applying for an IGP grant or wishing to learn a bit more about the process is encouraged to attend.
- What is the “Live Chat” on September 4th?
During the “Live Chat” on September 4th, 2014, applicants and other interested persons can join online to discuss the program, the application process, and any other questions they have with ASAE Foundation staff, IGP Steering Committee members, and past grant recipients. Further details will be provided on the website once they are finalized. If you have any questions about the “Live Chat,” please contact IGP@asaecenter.org.
- Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm! You’ve found this page because you have lots of ideas. What ideas may have been deemed “too risky” in the past? Work through them (and talk about them with others) to decide on the one that will: a) be practical to implement next year, b) impact your organization, and c) serve as inspiration for the association industry.
- Familiarize yourself with the existing literature on innovation. It helps to understand what’s been done and what the trends are now. How do you see your organization expanding the conversation about the innovative methods associations are using to pursue their goals and achieve success?
- State how you defined “innovation.” Be sure to align your goals and objectives with your definition.
- Think about the overall impact of your submission. Is it well-written? Does it make sense? Is it practical?
- Clearly state the need or issue your project addresses and describe how your project will have an impact on that need/issue. Explain how you will apply the outcome of the project. Define how you will measure success.
- Think about how the concept of the project is transferable to other organizations and other industries and address this in your proposal. We see many ideas that would be meaningful for a specific organization but are not transferable to other types or organizations or industries.
- Include a clear, concise, informative timeline for anticipated project activities. Be sure it is realistic.
- Clearly state how/why the $10,000 you receive from the grant will make a difference to your work. What will the funding enable you to do that you could not do otherwise?
- Describe the long-term effects of your project. How will this project foster a culture of innovation within your organization during the grant year and afterward?
- Share your proposal abstract with a colleague or friend, and make sure they are able to identify the key points you want to convey and how your goals will be accomplished.
Illinois Homecare & Hospice Council
A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to Enhance Member Engagement and Credibility on a Topic of National Concern
The Illinois Homecare & Hospice Council (IHHC) is currently working with the award-winning online learning center at the University of Illinois-Springfield, the Illinois Hospital Association, and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine to offer a high quality Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on “Best Practices to Reduce Hospital Readmissions through Care Coordination.” While the program modules will target members of IHHC and the Illinois Hospital Association who work in hospital, home care and hospice settings, as well as nursing home colleagues, the free MOOC will be widely available — to anyone anywhere.
By showcasing groundbreaking work done by physicians at several Illinois medical schools working with local hospitals and by sharing best practices developed by members of our professional association, the project developers will encourage the kind of education and networking that has been largely missing between the medical “silos” that care for patients. The MOOC will also foster the kind of learning and networking needed to establish “cross continuum caretaking teams” – much needed in the New Health Age. It will not only bring added credibility to the partnering organizations, it will serve as a reminder that when college educated adults need further training, professional associations can present competent and creative solutions.
Marble Institute of America
Innovation through Industry Collaboration for Statistics & Benchmarking
With their IGP award, the Marble Institute of America (MIA) will develop, prototype, test and evaluate the interest and value of bringing multiple industry segments together to meet member needs, taking both MIA and the industry in a new direction. As part of their project, MIA will develop a website portal where members can obtain key industry statistics and benchmarks in one place, and they’ll create an industry blog to keep the members and partners updated and informed. MIA will also participate in multiple presentations at industry trade shows, chapter events, and online forums to share and discuss their data. Internally, a new steering committee and workshop training for staff, the steering committee, and stake holders will help MIA shift to pursue these innovations.
The project centers on establishing benchmarking data and presenting that data to the industry, but the big picture goal is to connect and engage the stone industry in a meaningful discussion for the common good. The stone industry is mostly comprised of small-to-medium-size family business without the means to assemble this information on their own, so MIA is proactively moving to assemble and provide the data and foster conversations that advance the industry.
Soroptimist International of the Americas
LiveYourDream.org — Expanding our brand to meet activists online!
Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA) plans to energize the Soroptimist brand and increase global awareness of one of its programs by expanding a new innovative online community called Live Your Dream (LYD). LYD is a recently-launched dedicated community of supporters who take both on- and offline action in support of Soroptimist programs that empower women and girls to achieve their dreams.
LiveYourDream.org was founded as a new entry point for people who wanted to support and participate in the mission without the barriers of club membership. LYD got off to a great start in its first year, but through IGP funding, SIA will seek to increase the number of LYD supporters engaged through social media, increase the number of advocacy opportunities available, increase awareness of the LYD community, and increase awareness of and engagement with SIA programs more broadly through new partnerships, better relationships with constituents, and the recruitment of new supporters.
Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity
Better In/Better Out
Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) was awarded a hybrid grant to implement Better In/Better Out (BIBO), a multi-faceted initiative designed to generate new ideas, develop processes to support innovation within TKE, and enhance communication across all levels of the organization. TKE is comfortable with innovative thinking but is now concerned with new and better ways to channel ideas and conversations into actionable strategies – thus the title “Better In/Better Out.”
As part of their project, TKE will pursue inputs from external organizations outside of the fraternity market, colleagues in other fraternal organizations, and undergraduate leaders within the TKE fraternity through site visits to innovative leaders and TKE-hosted events. TKE staff will be trained in intentional learning and in how to apply what they learn in new contexts. TKE will engage staff at all levels in different ways in the process of developing ideas, evaluating potential projects, and implementing new innovations. The end goal is an internal dialogue at TKE that will create positive momentum, increase morale, and spark meaningful change.
Association of American Medical Colleges
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) had 4 elements to their IGP proposal: advancing additional networking with innovation experts, experimenting with a design-thinking workshop, improving their capacity for associating by attending an innovation-focused event, and observing their membership to better understand and address their members’ needs. With funding awarded through IGP, AAMC staff attended meetings and conferences specifically geared toward innovation. Upon returning, the attendees quickly introduced new ideas designed to foster collaboration and exchange among staff. Staff also participated in a design-thinking workshop that led to the creation of a new model of engagement and exchange with AAMC members about products and services. Through this process, and through observing member organizations in action, AAMC intends to build a better understanding of their members’ needs and how to serve them.
AAMC used the grant funding to find new ways to engage staff with their organization and ideas about innovation. Contests for travel grants disbursed as part of the IGP award invited staff to be creative with their ideas and their proposals. AAMC staff came together to view and vote on the proposals to choose a winner for one of the grants. The contests opened up opportunities to learn about innovative ideas to all AAMC staff.
Through their IGP grant, AAMC experienced how engagement and networking can drive innovation in an organization. By engaging their staff in their innovation efforts, AAMC built interest and commitment to innovation within their offices. Through their networking efforts with AMI and others, AAMC increased organizational knowledge and helped expand a community of innovators.
Center for the Future of Museums, American Alliance of Museums
With the grant received through IGP, the Center for the Future of Museums (CFM) developed, tested, and evaluated a digital badging system. Digital badging is a system by which an organization offers “credit” in return for the demonstration of some accomplishment by the user, whether the completion of an educational module or participation in a related event. CFM’s pilot program ran from early 2013 to the end of that year and allowed two test groups of users to earn credit and recognition for mastering content in small topic areas. Altogether, CFM created five badges, one for each level of content and one for mastering all levels.
CFM collected extensive feedback from these participants and other advisors on the online content. Through the feedback and their internal experiences, CFM created recommendations to guide the incorporation of digital badging into the Alliance’s professional education program, as well as evaluating how CFM might improve this particular badging course for future iterations. The experience invited reflection on the implications of the project not only for their organization but also for the entire association community. Digital badging, or some similar form of microcredentialing, is an opportunity associations will need to consider if/as the trend endures. Associations who move forward with digital badging will need to decide what to credential and what determines the completion of the requirements. The success of digital badging is also inevitably tied to building “brand” value associated with the credentials and the recognition of microcredentialing more broadly.
Colorado Nonprofit Association
With the money received from the Innovation Grant Program, the Colorado Nonprofit Association created an online assessment system and toolkit to help members determine how to improve their processes. The site they built, called opus, allows members to compare their data to benchmarked data, reinforces the best practices outlined in Colorado Nonprofit Association’s Principles & Practices for Nonprofit Excellence in Colorado (P&P), and links users to resources that take a more in-depth look at these practices.
opus was launched April 1, 2014 and response has been extremely positive. Several new members joined the Colorado Nonprofit Association specifically for access to opus. The Association was also able to secure sponsors for opus to offset the ongoing support costs. Next up for opus and the Colorado Nonprofit Association is the launch of the full assessment system in spring 2014.
International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking
For their proposal, the International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking (IADD) developed a program called “Think! Outside the Box” (Think!). Think! was designed to overcome distance and financial constraint to bring IADD’s members together, start conversations, exchange ideas, and foster innovation among members, staff, the association, and the industry. Think! would accomplish this by using video and Wi-Fi technology to remove the barriers inherent to gathering a geographically diverse association membership. As the program was implemented, the program components shifted to address the needs of IADD and its membership, taking the program in unexpected but successful directions.
With the grant award, IADD purchased several tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, conference cams, and other equipment/software to support the production of videos and remote conferencing by IADD staff and members. To make these tours available to IADD members, IADD built a Think! media website that currently hosts four video tours to showcase their members’ companies. More videos will be added as they are formatted and approved.
IADD’s key takeaway was that investment in innovation not only unlocked a creative approach that addressed several challenges, but the equipment remains an investment that can be creatively deployed to take advantage of other opportunities. It also underscored the need for even small organizations to take risk and “invest in ourselves and more fully utilize technology to stay fresh and deliver new products and services.”
The Innovation Grants Program is made possible through support from SunTrust Foundation.