Chances are your association's 2015 business plan includes goals to grow membership and increase revenues. It also probably outlines some strategies for how you're going to accomplish those goals, like developing new programs or services, increasing member engagement, and targeting potential new members and/or donors.

Associations have a host of marketing and communications tools available to help them achieve the latter, but they don't always make the fullest use of them. If your association is one of those, make this the year you fine-tune your outreach efforts.

Associations have long used member and donor segmentation to improve the effectiveness of their recruitment and giving campaigns. For a number of reasons, however, the segmentation often is at a fairly basic level strategically.

A survey of small- and medium-sized nonprofits in the U.S. and Canada, conducted last spring by fundraising software provider Bloomerang, found that while 80 percent of responding organizations were familiar with segmentation, less than two-thirds currently used segmenting as a strategy. Of those who did, the most common form was segmenting donors based on previous interactions, such as donation amount, donation type and number and frequency of interactions.

Although it's true that a donor in the hand is worth 10 on the prospect list, the survey results raise the question of how much more could these associations be accomplishing if they were to cast their segmentation net wider.

Notably missing from the list of segmentation categories commonly used are the types of demographic and psychodemographic data used by for-profit marketers, such as age, gender, income level, location, cohort identity, purchasing habits and media preferences. Although, 29 percent of the survey respondents did track whether donors preferred hard copy or email communications.

These types of data can be especially effective in reaching new members or donors. A segmentation study conducted by Nielsen for Minnesota-based food bank The Food Group discovered that there were 50,000 households in Minneapolis that fit the profile of the organization's top two core-donor segments.

Yet The Food Group was engaging with only 2.5 percent of those households. With this information in hand, they were then able to use zip code mapping to expand future mailing campaigns.

Associations know that members join for a variety of reasons. Using demographic and psychodemographic segmentation to link reasons for joining with other factors, such as life or career stage, business type, education or experience level, etc., can help the marketing and communication team to develop messages and materials that speak directly to a prospective member's needs and sense of identity.

One survey, for example, found that donors give to causes that reflect how they view themselves as givers. Identifying which types of donors fit your mission will help you focus your efforts and craft more effective appeals, instead of expending precious resources on a one-size-fits-all campaign.

Of the associations that participated in the Bloomerang survey, a majority of those currently not using segmentation said they were not sure how to begin. If that's true for your organization, you can find a brief primer online at KnowHowNonProfit.

You also may need to do some survey work or database analysis to identify characteristics of major market segments for your organization. It takes a bit of additional effort, but — like The Food Group you likely will find the pond you've been fishing in is a lot larger that you thought.