by Sarah Montoya
My friend Lydia introduced me to Poornima’s Lean Product Development Course. Lydia and I have had extensive conversations about my desire to expand my skills and she was confident the class would be a great fit. For the past few years I have worked in social services in a direct service role to low-income youth. I enjoyed my work but often found that I wanted to find different and unique ways to be challenged professionally.
With my background the options for branching out professionally often feel limited unless I go back to school. I studied psychology in undergrad and received a master’s of divinity immediately after; hence, I have never taken a business, marketing, or tech courses in school. But, because I already have a master’s degree I am not in any hurry to take on additional student debt. I usually turn to General Assembly or other spaces to add to my skill set. The first of Poornima’s classes that grabbed my attention was offered through General Assembly, but I wasn’t able to take it, so Lydia helped connect me to Poornima so I could take classes directly from her. I have only sat in on one class and I am so glad I did! I chose the class on Market Research because of my interest in going into fundraising and marketing full time, and my need to have a better understanding of the markets I want to reach out to.
Through the class I learned about Competitive Analysis, Differentiation Techniques, and User Segmentation. A good deal of my time at the moment is dedicated to volunteering for a small nonprofit in San Francisco. We offer financial support to projects in the developing world and a large part of how we do that is by asking for people to contribute to us, so we can pass the money along. More than any other question I am asked is: “Why are you any different than other NGO’s and non profits?” I hadn’t thought about it in the exact terms listed above but listening to the class I realized that what people want to know is: “Have I done market research? Do I really know who else is doing what we do? And why are we the best organization for them to support?”
Most nonprofits don’t like to think of other nonprofits as competitors, but listening to the class I see that the same understanding of the market applies. We are asking for money so I need to be able to tell people why us. I can’t tell people why we are the best option if I don’t know what the other options are. Also, as I think about our organization’s future knowing the history of other nonprofits like us helps me think about why they succeeded and failed. Everyone makes mistakes and if we can learn from theirs (and ours) we will be a better organization. We also need to know who the market is and we should ask. Finally, as we think about the future of our organization we need to know if there is room in the market for us and how much room.
The class covered all of these issues. In addition to all of this, I know that our approach is different than other organizations. It is an approach that we hope will redirect international development, if we are able to push the development community towards the approach we are taking it will impact the way people choose who they give to, so we need to know if the market is ready to change. We need to be doing market research and we are.
The class helped me think about the parts of research we might be missing, and gave me language for what we are doing and need to be doing. Using the information from the class will enable me to better understand what people are asking me when they ask why us. It will also guide me as I do my research to be better prepared to answer their questions.
Sarah Montoya loves to learn and wants to make the world a better place. As the event manager for Do Good Lab she hosts fabulous events to support sustainable development. She also volunteers with Old Skool Cafe, and is passionate about human rights. Before moving to San Francisco she received her Masters of Divinity from Truett Seminary at Baylor University. Sarah loves traveling, running, crafting, and playing with her dog.