Mercer Meyer with a stuffed Little Critter.

Mercer Mayer with Little Critter.

Mercer Mayer with Little Critter.

In Mercer Mayer’s children’s story, Just Big Enough, our young critter friend gets kicked around by the big kids. He wishes he were bigger. He exerts all sorts of effort so that he can grow, and play with the big kids. He even builds a growing machine. But he doesn’t grow. But convinces him that being big isn’t always useful. When you’re smaller, you’re faster. Little Critter challenges the big kids to a race, and because he’s nimble, he wins.

This era of big data that we are in can be exhilarating. We look ahead at the possibilities, and we want to be there, and now. And some companies and organizations are already there. Target can predict a teenager is pregnant before her father knows. The Amazon suggestion engine is one of the most carefully crafted wallet-openers ever to exist. And Facebook? That’s another blog post for another time.

It makes those of us in small business and the nonprofit world salivate. We want to be like the big kids.

But your small regional nonprofit isn’t Target. Your local cupcake shop isn’t Facebook. And your mom’s Etsy storefront isn’t Amazon.

Instead, we feel like we’re letting the big kids have all the fun. We feel like we need to build a growing machine in order to get into the data game. But growing machines don’t work. So you just sit on the sidelines and grumble while the big kids play football.

But you don’t have to. As a small organization or business, you have a lot going for you. Start with what you have, and what you know. If you’re trying to increase donations, see if you can target and segment a particular part of your donor base. Trying to convert leads? Try testing your email messaging. Don’t know enough about your base to make any segmenting decisions? Try sending out some simple surveys so you can start segmenting.

You may not have big-data algorithms to make complex suggestion engines. But chances are, you’ve got data in your arsenal to help grow. You have just big enough data.