Your nonprofit’s audience isn’t one homogeneous group, so your marketing shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all either. Your donors, supporters, volunteers, and other stakeholders bring distinct demographics, motivations, values, goals, and other characteristics to the table. Marketing personas provide a fictional representation of a particular segment of your audience and allow you to better target your campaigns to them. You don’t have to invest heavily in audience research to establish your personas – a DIY approach offers a solid and cost-effective starting point.

Persona Segments

The first step in persona creation is defining broad segments of your audience. For many nonprofits, these would be divided into volunteers, donors, and supporters. You can break these down into more specific groups as needed, depending on how focused your marketing and outreach efforts get. For example, you can create personas for first-time donors, long-term donors, and donors with the highest contributions.

Data Sources for Your DIY Personas

You have access to a lot of information about your audience, even if you don’t realize it. Your internal databases, reports, and communications give you first-hand information about the type of people who are involved with your organization. You can reach out to representative examples of each segment and have a one-on-one conversation with several people to learn more about them.

Outside of your first-person data, you have multiple sources to increase your understanding of your audience. Social media is filled with ways to learn more about personas, from looking at individual profiles to participating in groups related to your nonprofit’s mission. Industry and government publications provide additional data about your personas and how to best define them.

Characteristics to Include in a Nonprofit Persona

Here is a template to use for your DIY persona, along with the data that you should use to fill each field.

  • Name: Create a name to represent your personas to humanize them better. If possible, add a photo to cement them as a distinct person.
  • Age: What’s the average age of the people in this segment? The pop-culture references, style of communication, and motivations behind engaging with your organization can vary drastically between generations.
  • Life stage: Does your persona have a family? Are they at the beginning of their careers, or are they well-established? What responsibilities do they have that may impact their ability to attend fundraising events, donate, or volunteer their time?
  • Income level: What’s the average income for this segment? This information helps you understand their contribution potential.
  • Education level: What are the typical academic achievements for your audience? If possible, you can define the type of degree programs they participated in.
  • Professional life: Delve further into their professional life by defining their job title, duties, the companies they’re working for, and similar information.
  • Personal life: You can get detailed about the typical day in the life of your persona. Do they have a busy schedule, or are they enjoying their retirement? What are they interested in and do they have hobbies that they enjoy spending their time on?
  • Goals, values, and motivations: Now, you want to take a deep dive into what your personas are thinking and feeling. These three characteristics provide important information on their beliefs, why they want to donate to your organization, and what their goals are for their life.
  • Pain points, worries, and challenges: Do they face challenges that get in the way of participating with your nonprofit? Are they encountering friction when it comes to using online resources or accessing your location? Consider what leads to frustration for your audience.

Articulating Emotional Aspects of Your Personas

The last two sets of characteristics touch upon the way that your personas think and feel. Quantifying the emotional aspects may be difficult, and sometimes you’re simply providing an educated guess on these areas. The most important thing you can do is to empathize with your audience and to use active listening during interviews to pick up on these details. Social media is another great way of filling in the gaps to learn more about the things that matter most to them, their life goals, their interests, their beliefs, and why they’re emotionally invested in your organization.

Updating Your Personas

Creating nonprofit personas is not a one-and-done process. Your audience will change over time, and it’s important to keep personas updated to reflect that. You’ll maintain consistency in your campaigns and gain a better understanding of your donors, volunteers, supporters, and other stakeholders.

Putting together personas doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Use this DIY approach to make the most out of your nonprofit’s outreach and marketing budget.

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