2016 Fail Forward Contest

2016 Fail Forward Contest

Ashlee Cox is a current Program Team Fellow and author of this blog post. 

Bill Gates’ first company failed to sell any products, JK Rowling was initially rejected from twelve publishers, a young Amitabh Bachchan was turned down for a job at All India Radio, and staff from 2015 Fail Forward contest winner Sumando Manos Foundation spent four years attempting to find  a solution to malnutrition in a remote Argentinian village.

What do all these success stories have in common? When they failed, they failed forward.

Failure is a word that many of us shy away from, but failing forward is a practice that allows you to examine, share, and critically think about how you can build upon your failures to fuel future success for your organization. As the 2016 Fail Forward Contest approaches, we want to change the way failure is perceived and encourage you to share your Fail Forward stories!

In preparation for this year’s Fail Forward Contest, we wanted to see how our nonprofit partners viewed the concept of failing forward  We sent a survey to all of the 2016 Social Impact Academy participants to gain insight on what failure means within their organizations. The results showed that our nonprofit partners had a firm understanding of failure, and ranked it as an important component for their organization’s growth, yet they did not feel comfortable discussing their failures externally. That’s why GlobalGiving wants to break the stigma surrounding failure. Your organization’s ability to fail forward shows strong teamwork, transparency, and perseverance.

How can your organization learn to fail forward? Here are a few key points to keep in mind to help your organization to learn from it’s mistakes:

Be Transparent

From an internal standpoint, acknowledging failure can be a daunting task but the only way to learn from your failures is to be open and transparent about things that were unsuccessful. Talking about failure with your staff, board members, and volunteers shows your organization is invested in learning and improving. Organizations must be open, honest, and vulnerable about when failures happened in order to find a solution.

It’s equally important to share your failures with your donors as it not only provides validity for your organization but also builds a strong connection with them. When donors are included in the discussion of past failures, it allows them to give feedback and support. Most importantly, it shows your organization has the ability to identify a problem and solve it.

Be A Team

An important part of failing forward is knowing how to address failure and having the appropriate response to it. When something in your organization doesn’t go as planned, it is vital to get a new perspective on the mistakes and brainstorm ways to improve it. Your staff and volunteers know your project best! When brainstorming new ideas, include your staff members and volunteers so they can share their insight and feedback in the discussion. Leading members of your team through a brainstorming process will help foster a strong sense of teamwork and give ownership to your whole organization as you learn.


Failure is inevitable for every organization at some point. It’s an unpleasant experience, but how your organization responds to it can make all the difference. It’s easy to feel defeat, but when your organization has experienced a failed project, it’s important to not give up. Change the failure into a learning opportunity for your organization, explore the mistakes that happened, and create new ways to make the project successful. This can be done by implementing evaluations to measure the progress and effectiveness of the project. In return, you will create a culture of learning within your organization.

The driving force behind creating a learning culture for your organization is to develop a growth mindset and to encourage staff members and volunteers to step outside their comfort zone and take risks. An organization with a learning culture fosters a safe place for employees to collectively come together to embrace mistakes, share their thoughts, and ask questions. To put these key points to the test, take part in our 2016 Fail Forward contest. It will give your organization the chance to share your fail forward story and help change the perception of failure!

“A failure is not always a mistake. It may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”- B.F. Skinner

So are you ready to share your fail forward story? Then apply to the Fail Forward Contest!

Step 1- Sign up here!

Step 2- Tell your Fail Forward story by Friday, October 28th to be eligible for prizes! Submit a project report describing a time when your organization tried something new that didn’t go as planned and how you learned from it.

The top three winners will receive cash prizes of $1,000, $600, $400 respectively as well as social media promotion! All participants will earn 1 GG Reward contest point and can use their Fail Forward story as a Create-Your-Own Cycle to earn 12 additional points!

What is GlobalGiving looking for in a Fail Forward report?

A clear and compelling Fail Forward report includes the following:

  • What your organization was trying to achieve and why;
  • The idea or method was that you tried;
  • Why the idea or method failed – admit responsibility;
  • What your organization learned from the experiment; and
  • How your organization is using that experience to improve its work.

Join us for a webinar on Learning from Failure on October 18th at 11a.m. EDT and check out these stories from the 2015 Fail Forward Contest for inspiration!

Terms + Conditions:

  • Organizations must sign up for the contest by October 28th, 2016 11:59 p.m. ET to be eligible.
  • Organizations must submit a Fail Forward report for an active project to be eligible.
  • Fail Forward reports must be submitted between September 28th, 2016 and October 28th, 2016 at 11:59:59 EDT.
  • First place will receive $1,000, second place will receive $600, and third place will receive $400.
  • All prize money will be disbursed in the December disbursement.
  • GlobalGiving’s fee will not be added to prize money.
  • Each organization may only submit one Fail Forward report.
  • Only organizations which hold a GG Reward status of Partner, Leader, or Superstar will be eligible to participate.
  • Organizations must be listed on GlobalGiving.org as of October 28th, 2016 to be eligible.
  • Organizations must meet all other GlobalGiving disbursement criteria in order for any monetary rewards to be distributed.
  • GlobalGiving reserves the right to make final decisions regarding the awarding of bonus awards or promotion opportunities and can disqualify any organization in violation of the terms and conditions.

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