Here is an interesting fact for you: Since the beginning of this fiscal year (April 1) CYC-Net has received no financial support from its thousands of world-wide users “more than two thousand unique visitors a day to its web site and more than three thousand members of the discussion group.
There are two important exceptions to that statement:
The employees of Homebridge Youth Society have continued to support CYC-Net through monthly payroll deductions and Homebridge continues to be the most supportive agency of CYC-Net in the world.
The Kibble Education and Care Centre in Scotland, an on-going supporter, has very generously sponsored a new initiative, The Learning Zone, which will be launched through CYC-Net shortly.
Were CYC-Net to have a personality, however, it would feel unvalued, insignificant and worthless.
So, we were thinking about appealing to all our friends, saying how much your support is needed. But last time we did that only 3 people sent us a check ...
We were going to point out how colleges and universities use CYC-Net to support class projects, learning and references. But we have said that before and it did not result in any increased contributions “in fact it reduced the number of institutions which support CYC-Net!
We were going to point out how many agencies and programs use CYC-Net for staff development. But we did that before too, and no response to that either, even when we know how much CYC-Net material and services are used in their work! But let us be clear (and as our friend Ernie likes to say “grateful–). Last year some members, associations, colleges, and agencies did support CYC-Net, and we are grateful to those who did.
So here are our tentative conclusions:
1. We are at a loss about how to get the profession of child and youth care work to support CYC-Net financially.
2. Current efforts are not working.
3. A new strategy is needed but we haven’t worked out just what that strategy will be yet.
So, it is time for a review, just as one might review any “intervention plan”.
Here is some of what we have tried so far:
Asking directly (We need your support ... )
Nagging (You said you were going to ... )
Guilting (What? You think we are worthless?)
Begging (Please help us ... )
Pleading (Please, please, please, please help us)
Nudging (Hey, come on, eh?)
Hinting (Well, if we only had ... )
Threatening (That’s it, if you don’t support us, we’re out of here.)
Selling (Here is what CYC-Net has to offer ... )
Doing good work. (Go look at the latest issue of CYC-Online)
Being interesting (What other child and youth care portal has over 3000 members?)
Now, we do know a little about goal attainment “and reviewing those strategies, well, they look pretty comprehensive to us: they seem to cover all the bases. Although there remains, of course, the question of whether or not they are relevant to the goal. You know, sometimes we have great strategies, creative, interesting, well thought out and all that, but sometimes (this time?) they bear no relationship to the goal.
Hmmm, what is that formula for reviewing a plan again? Ah, yes:
So, maybe the strategies were good (one can hope, eh?) but the problem was with the goal? What is that formula again. Oh, yes: S.M.A.R.T.
Specific “hmmm, maybe “Help keep CYC-Net alive” was not really specific enough for the profession of child and youth care. Perhaps a goal like “Raise 3000 dollars per month from the professional membership, each and every month” would have been clearer, or better yet, “$12 per member per year!” But wait, we have told people a number of times that was needed. Perhaps the problem with the goal lies in a different area “if it is our goal, and not the goal of the members, why should professional child and youth care workers worry? What do other professions do?
Measurable “well, it is definitely measurable! We know that there are some 80,000 hits on the CYC-Net site each month. And we are also reminded by the bank each month about how small the bank balance is. So, measurable is okay.
Attainable “Oh, attainable. Well, we “think it is”. We are reminded of the story of the little train climbing the mountain: “I think I can. I think I can. I know I can. I know I can. I can. I can. I can.” But . . . maybe it is not attainable for the child and youth care profession “since our experience to date suggests that.
Realistic “as many as 2500 people a day visit CYC-Net. Almost a million distinct visits a year. There are 3000 members of the discussion group. If each registered member of the discussion group (never mind the other visitors) gave 1 dollar a month, we wouldn’t be writing this “so, yes, realistic seems okay.
Time limited “well, we fail on this one, because we just keep going on and on, which is what we would like people to do with small donations (and large ones, of course). But maybe it has to be a goal each month. But then how many actual professions work that way? None that we know of”
So, having reviewed the goals, according to the SMART formula, we notice that:
Our goal has been too general
It is our goal, not the service recipient’s goal.
We are not sure that child and youth care workers are truly concerned about their own professional development goals.
Now, (even though we might be approaching this in what some people would consider a mixed-up manner) it would seem that:
1. The goal is not the problem, although it may
need some refinement (but then that’s the purpose of a review) and
2. Many, many strategies have been tried but we are still unsuccessful (in spite of the budget figures being made available on the site!)
So, there is always the possibility as mentioned earlier, that there is an incompatibility between the goal and the strategies.
What about the need?
Before going there, we should really reflect on the 'need', right? Most people would argue that we should have started there. But it seems that the need is clear and could be stated something like “To sustain the world's largest and most responsive on-line professional resource for child and youth care workers”. So, enough said. And, sorry, for those of you who are purists about this, for not doing that at the beginning.
Marketing the product
We don’t know much about marketing (and perhaps that’s the reason why we have done so poorly at fundraising for CYC-Net) but what we have heard is that, in order to “sell” something:
There must be a need. Well, everything we read in the literature and hear in conversations suggests that there is a need for what CYC-Net is offering “knowledge, connectedness, and opportunities for professional growth. The written feedback we receive suggests that CYC-Net is filling a need.
The product must (or at least appear to) meet the need. CYC-Net addresses itself directly to these 3 apparent needs of the field. And the feedback would seem to suggest it is meeting the need. As would the number of visits, downloads, citations, etc. Heck, we even received an award for meeting the need for connectedness (See here if you have any doubts about it.)
It must have a market. Again we refer to the almost one million visits a year and the hundreds of thousands of child and youth care workers in the world. So there is a market, for sure.
The price must be affordable (in range demographics one is “targeting–). How much cheaper can there be than “free”? But that’s the problem of course, because all the textbooks say that devalues what the profession gets from CYC-Net. So we have to ask ourselves: can the average CYC worker afford a dollar a month to invest in continuing professional development and the answer is obviously, “of course”, except in places where a dollar is actually a lot of money.
It must be “easily available” to the consumers. Now, really, how much easier can you get than www.cyc-net.org?
So, let’s re-cap.
There is clearly a need.
CYC-Net appears to be meeting a need.
Our goal may need to be more specific but is, in general, “okay” and reasonable.
From a “marketing” perspective we are on the mark, except that we may be devaluing CYC-Net by being “free”.
Financially, professional child and youth care workers simply do not support CYC-Net.
Our strategies have been unsuccessful.
Conclusions (and interpretations):
The goal needs continuing refinement.
To date, financial strategies have been unsuccessful.
A specific fundraising strategy is required, one that supports the profession without compromising values that underpin this profession.
In the end there are a few burning questions:
1. “How can you, the people who strive for professional recognition and standing who use CYC-Net, be engaged to support CYC-Net so as to help it survive?
2. What can or will you do to ensure the survival of CYC-Net?
3. What action strategies do you propose that will raise funds for CYC-Net?
We have appealed for help before and usually all we get are either a) general answers like, “ya, sure sounds important” or “hey we didn’t know there was a problem” or b) an overwhelming silence, like the one we fear may result following this editorial.
But then, as both of our mothers used to say: “Sometimes when you least expect it, people surprise you.” We sure would love it if this is one of those times when our moms were right!
So, here goes. We ask you directly as someone committed to supporting professional child and youth care practice, and your own continuing professional development as someone engaged in that field:
Please help us keep CYC-Net alive by joining in and making a small monthly contribution of $1.00 “or an annual $12.00 “less than half the cost of a McDonald's Happy Meal and much more likely to contribute to your overall sense of wellbeing!
Thanks in anticipation!
Thom and Leon
Donations can be sent to CYC-Net at one of these
CANADA: CYC-Net, 207 Rue L–ile de Belair E. Rosemere, Quebec. Canada J7A 2L4
SOUTH AFRICA: CYC-Net, P.O. Box 23199, Claremont 7735, South Africa