Looking forward to 2009

One thing I think C3 (my org) does well is that we take a lot of short, successful hops. Yes, we’re making a difference against colorectal cancer, and that’s ultimately our big-picture goal. But we’re getting there with a series of small steps.

Every November we meet for a strategic retreat where we look (briefly) at where we’ve been, analyze where we are, and make a plan for next year. Each year, by the end of the retreat we’ve come away with very clear ideas of what has to be done to help us move forward in our mission, and each year we’ve managed to accomplish the goal we set. Our wonderful Answer Line came out of one year’s retreat. We don’t resolve to cure colorectal cancer in a year; instead we resolve to chip away at a very specific, very targeted part of the rock that needs banging on.

In addition to moving towards our objective, we also have to make sure people understand and appreciate the benefit of the short gain. Why it matters that there’s federal colorectal cancer screening legislation. Why it matters that the patient voice is heard by the medical community. That treatments don’t magically spring out of research alone.

2009 is going to be an interesting year. It’s not about raising more funds, it’s about raising enough funds. Enough funds to win the small, measured victory and build towards the larger ones.

This year, I think the watch word for smaller nonprofits will be: segmentation. A resolution, if you will. That is what is going to separate those who make it from those who don’t. The larger nonprofits seem to have it down pat. The smaller ones, not so much. We’re not trying to figure out how to tell people what they want to hear. We want to figure out how to do a better job letting people know who we are and why we matter in a way they’ll listen.

It has always bothered me that nonprofits are measured in dollars and cents, and that we’re all lumped into the same pot. Do you want to feed the homeless or cure cancer? Give books to needy children or build a performing arts center? We paint “nonprofits” in broad strokes. It’s almost as ridiculous as saying that every geek “works in computers.”

It’s more than separating those who gave $500 from those who live in Kentucky. We have to figure out who is likely to engage online and who isn’t (and not just for donations). Who needs a lot of data and background information and who needs us to cut to the chase.

After 3.5 years “in business,” this is my personal challenge/resolution for 2009: I want to take the technology we already have and use it to help C3 focus our attention on our constituents and supporters as effectively as we focus on what we do to fight colorectal cancer.

That’s my resolution. Of course, this post has nothing to do with this little Convio campaign. Nope, just coincidence. 😉

Here are some other bloggers that are writing their nonprofit resolutions at Convio’s invitation:


6 responses to “Looking forward to 2009”

  1. Judi, you hit the nail squarely on the head with segmentation. What's interesting is that this concept has been out there for quite a while…and like you said is not always executed well by nonprofits. But maybe we're at a tipping point now. We've had the technological capability to segment for a while; now, there's momentum to communicate to diverse audiences that I think is one result of social media filtering outward.

  2. Ditto on Chris' above points. I think 2009 will be a great year for small to medium nonprofits who now realize/embrace the importance of online tools and technology and can accomplish great things on a budget. Segmentation will only further the effectiveness of these tools. As always, I'll keep an eye in your blog in 2009 to see how this resolution plays out for C3 : )

  3. Judi, I like the refrain of segmentation. Obviously the best way to do that is through engagement. What do you think about smaller nonprofits being more conversational with their audiences? Ideas on how to do that?

  4. I agree with you that segmentation is growing in importance. Not just to communicate in a way that resonates but also to determine the communication channels to communicate with.

  5. With smaller non-profits, having a comprehensive segmentation strategy can be overwhelming. TREW Marketing has found success with these groups by choosing 1-2 segments and going really deep in both researching needs and executing segmented communications. By the year's end the proof will be in the results, and successes can be built upon with adding more segments (or sub-dividing the '09 segments) in 2010. Segmentation is definitely a journey, not a destination. Thanks for the dialog, Judi!