3 ingredients for successful nonprofit innovation: a case study of the RiverRocks Festival

Slide004My hometown is quite the hot spot for outdoor adventure. Chattanooga has been named one of the top bike-friendly cities in the United States by Bicycling magazine, a top “10 Dream Towns to Live Big, Play Hard, and Work (if you must)” by Outside magazine and called one of the “Best Adventure Towns in the U.S. to Live + Play” by National Geographic Adventure magazine.

One of the incredible organizations in our area dedicated to the outdoors is RiverRocks. RiverRocks features an annual festival that benefits eight different local land conservation organizations for the greater good. This partnership leads to the first of three ingredients for a successful nonprofit innovation:

#1 Generous portions of collaboration.

When competing ideas and competing missions exist in silos, there are plenty of missed opportunities to increase the bottom line for all.

The Tennessee River Gorge Trust, along with the Trust for Public Land, Lula Lake Land Trust, Friends of the Cumberland Trail, North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center, Friends of Moccasin Bend and the Lookout Mountain Conservancy are RiverRocks partners for good, serving as joint beneficiaries of RiverRocks donations. In addition, RiverRocks has a growing list of other outdoor groups, sponsors and community partners including Rock/Creek, EPB, Hunter Museum, Music City Roots, Arts Build, Cornerstones, WTCI-PBS and the Tennessee Aquarium.

Over the past three years there has been an impressive 100,000+ participants in RiverRocks with a mission “to produce a fun-filled, family-friendly, environmentally conscious event which celebrates the incomparable natural resources of the region and the activities they inspire, the health benefits of an active outdoor lifestyle and Chattanooga’s commitment to environmental stewardship and land conservation.” All of this goodness leads to the second key ingredient for successful nonprofit innovation:

#2 Generous portions of mission-relevance.

The nonprofit community may have saturated the world of auctions and golf tournaments, but there is plenty of room for mission-relevant event innovation. When individuals unite for a common goal and push mission-aligned ideas forward, this is the trail that leads to successful nonprofit innovation and greater community good.

The RiverRocks Festival, produced by Chattanooga Presents, partners with many community-based organizations to take mission-relevance to a new level of engagement. Just check out this schedule of  public events from last year here, here and here.

Finally, the third key ingredient for successful nonprofit innovation is:

#3 A splash of something unique.

We live in a digital revolution that requires standing out above the noise of social media, sound bites and email overload. Some may say a ‘splash of something unique’ is gimmicky, but I say look closer. When targeted for good and combined with ingredients #1 and #2, things like this are possible:

Have you used generous portions of collaboration and mission-relevance plus a splash of ‘something unique’ to create successful nonprofit innovation in your community? If so, please share here or drop me a line!

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