How to Create Valuable Audience Personas for Your Nonprofit

Thousands of volunteers, donors and supports are, or have the potential be to be, involved in your nonprofit’s mission. Everyone involved in your organization comes from a different financial, personal and social background, so each individual will interpret your mission differently. In order to adequately address all of your donors and supporters, you must first determine their individual traits, values and perceptions. This is the fundamental basis of audience personas. Moreover, an audience persona is a fictional profile of an individual that explains why a specific portion of your audience interacts with your organization. This profile could include age, occupation, family, values, education, media usage or hobbies. Assessing these characteristics will tell you why your audience wants to work with your organization.

The way you tell your organization’s story determines how it resonates with each audience member and how they will interact with your organization. Customizing your organization’s mission to a diverse range of audience personas enables individuals to see themselves as impactful contributors to your mission. This relationship allows for the fostering of progressive audience-organization relationships.

Before developing audience personas, It is important to consider the unique traits that make up each persona. If your nonprofit is looking to establish audience personas, here are some good questions to consider for each persona you wish to target:


What demographics make up this audience segment?

Demographics could include age, level of education, occupation, relationships status, income, etc. An audience member pursuing an undergraduate degree is going to have a different perception of your organization than someone entering retirement. Considering income and occupation is also essential when determining the role that a persona can have within your organization. Not everyone can give the same amount or with the same frequency. To identify with different financial segments, you may send event invitations to larger or more regular donors while targeting volunteer or holiday donating opportunities toward smaller donors.

The family lifecycle is also an important demographic to consider when targeting your audience. Is the segment you're targeting single, married or divorced? Do they have children or are they in post-parenthood? These relationships define the attitude of your audience persona. If an individual is single, you may target them as a volunteer or smaller donor, while if an individual is married and in post-parenthood they may be a large donor.


What platforms does this audience segment use? Or how is your audience informed?

To be in contact with your audience personas, you must know how they stay in contact with the world. Some personas may spend all their time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Other personas may primarily use LinkedIn, email, newspaper or mail. Determining what platforms your audience segments use allows your organization to communicate its story in an accessible and impactful way.


If a persona primarily gains information from direct mail or newspapers, you want to target them through these mediums. This could mean mailing pamphlets and information about your organization or asking for donations by mail. For more tech savvy, and generally younger, personas your organization may want to establish a “donate now” button to collect donations on Facebook. This should be done in addition to establishing your nonprofit’s presence on social media platforms. In the last year, nonprofits’ email lists grew 11 percent, while Twitter followers grew 37 percent, and Facebook followers grew 42 percent. For this reason, it is important to consider how the platforms your nonprofit’s supporters use may change into the future. To learn more about how to target your audience via social media check out this article.


How does this audience think about your cause? And what do you want them to think?

As you're trying to determine what you know about your audience, you also need to determine what they know about you. The impression your audience has about your cause influences their interactions with it. You want your audience to think positively about your mission and have a desire to contribute to your organization. Every audience member will see your organization differently, so, with the use of audience personas, you can target content in ways that appeal to individuals. Strategic and personalized content marketing will motivate your audience to work toward your cause much more than communicating to the general public as a whole. Personalizing your content based on audience personas will better align how your organization is perceived with how you want your organization to be perceived.


What goals and values do your audience members have?

Connecting with the values and goals that your audience members have may be the most influential way to form meaningful relationships. If you can understand the values that audience personas have, your organization can be one of those values.

  • If a persona’s goal is to make a difference and feel valuable, you want to express that they can change lives and have an impact by working with your organization.
  • If a persona’s goal is to connect with an organization and its partners, you want to show the persona the diversity of volunteer and engagement opportunities.
  • If a persona’s goal is to get involved with new and exciting opportunities, you want to emphasize the different work that your organization does that allows supporters to invest in or interact with the community.




In what way do you want your audience to act?

How you want your audience to act is dependent on the persona of the audience. While, you may want everyone to donate and become invested in your organization, that is not always realistic. Some audience members will give one-time donations, some will give monthly, some will be large donors, and some will volunteer. To maximize donor relationships, you must consider how your audience is likely to act before reaching out. For example, it is not realistic to invite your low income or student donors to an event that costs $1,000 per plate. What you want your audience to do should be adjusted to how they are likely to act. Large donors are great, but it is important not to underestimate the value of volunteer work. Of those surveyed, 67% of volunteers identified with donating to the same organizations they volunteer at. Volunteers were also found to donate 10 times more than non-volunteers. Using audience personas to target donors based on how they will likely support your organization will help secure consistent and reliable relationships.

Still looking for more information on audience personas? Check out How Make-A-Wish is Telling New Stories with Audience Personas or contact See3's Director of Content Strategy: Bridgett Colling.

Author: Emily McMahon
  • Audience Personas
  • Nonprofits
  • Communication
Feb 23
by Michael Hoffman
Feb 16
by Michael Hoffman
Feb 9
by Michael Hoffman