Navigating your community’s unique needs requires insight and empathy. Nonprofit audience personas are invaluable tools in this journey. They offer a deeper understanding of the diverse individuals that make up your community.
Nonprofit audience personas act as a compass, bringing clarity and focus to nonprofit marketing efforts. In this guide, we’ll cover how to create audience personas and use them as a catalyst for greater community engagement.
What is a Nonprofit Audience Persona?
A nonprofit audience persona is a semi-fictional profile that represents key segments of the community you serve. Nonprofit audience personas help you understand the demographics and behavior of your members, donors, and volunteers. You can use these details to craft and segment your marketing efforts so they resonate with your community.
You may have heard them referred to by different names, such as “buyer personas”, “customer personas”, “marketing personas”, or “target personas”. While the terminology may vary, the outcome is the same: audience personas help you craft relevant messaging, attract the right people, and encourage them to act.
They have become an indispensable tool for organizations wanting to supercharge their outreach. Audience personas help nonprofits:
- Understand Community Members: Every community has unique needs and desires. Audience personas provide insight into the challenges, aspirations, and interests of your community members so you can create customized programming.
- Tailor Communication: With a deeper understanding of your audience, communication becomes more precise. Instead of generic messaging, you can craft targeted content that speaks directly to the hearts of your members, donors, and volunteers.
- Enhance Engagement: By recognizing the unique nuances of different segments within your community, you can develop programs that resonate. Members are more likely to engage with programs they’re passionate about.
- Allocate Resources Wisely: When you understand your community's needs, you can make informed decisions about where to invest your resources for the greatest impact.
Every nonprofit has unique needs and community members. Differentiating between the types of audience personas can significantly impact your community outreach. Let’s explore the three primary nonprofit audience personas: member personas, donor personas, and volunteer personas.
Member personas provide insight into the demographics and behavior of your members. Creating detailed member personas ensures your marketing and programs resonate, leading to higher engagement and satisfaction. This category can be further broken down into individual member personas and family personas.
Individual Member Personas: Focus on the needs and preferences of individual members. Are they seeking personal development, fitness, or social interaction? Understanding their motivation and demographics helps tailor programs to meet their needs.
Family Personas: Tailoring experiences for families requires a different lens. While an individual may be looking for personal growth opportunities, families may be more interested in programs that benefit their children. What does a fulfilling experience look like for family units at your organization?
Donors play a pivotal role in nonprofit growth. Donor personas represent individuals or entities that have the potential to financially support your cause. They act as a compass while fundraising, guiding you in understanding donor behavior and preferences. Are they driven by a deep alignment with your cause, the practical aspects of tax benefits, or a personal relationship with your organization?
Beyond motivations, personas also shed light on donor giving patterns and preferred communication channels. Some may favor digital updates and online giving, while others may appreciate a more personal touch through calls or handwritten notes. Recognizing what motivates potential donors, their giving habits, and their connection to your mission can foster stronger donor relationships.
Your donor base can be further broken down into three types of donors:
- One-time donors who may have given once or twice to your organization
- Recurring donors who give regularly and are some of your most loyal supporters
- Large donors who have given significant donations
Volunteers are the backbone of many nonprofit initiatives. They provide invaluable support, passion, and commitment to your programs. However, their availability and interests can vary as widely as the programs you offer. With volunteer personas, you can align their skills and enthusiasm with the right volunteer opportunities.
Understanding what fuels their desire to engage is just as crucial, especially when trying to recruit volunteers. Is it the intrinsic reward of contributing to the community, the professional development opportunity, or the chance to forge meaningful connections? Recognizing their motivators makes it easier to curate an enriching volunteer experience.
For an audience persona to be effective, it should be as detailed as possible. Gain insight into both motivation and demographics by including information such as:
- Economic status
- Preferred communication method
The details you include in your audience personas can change depending on your community and their unique needs. Here is some unique information to gather for each of the three primary nonprofit audience personas.
- Individual or family member ages
- Number of family members
- How does the school year affect their engagement?
- Do they primarily participate in family or youth programming?
- Frequency and amount of gifts
- What kind of ask do they respond to?
- How do they prefer to give? (online, cash, etc.)
- Which programs do they prefer to support?
- How do they prefer to be thanked?
- Volunteer frequency
- Amount of time volunteered per session
- What type of volunteering do they prefer?
- How do they prefer to be thanked?
You’ll need more than one persona if you engage a range of members, donors, and volunteers.
For example, let's say your organization offers senior activities, swim classes, and a youth sports program. You will need to develop at least three separate personas. Each of those groups will have a unique set of needs. Crafting separate personas will make it easier to tailor your campaigns and programs to them.
Download this free nonprofit audience persona template to get started.
Crafting nuanced audience personas requires a blend of qualitative and quantitative data. Here are some ways to collect the data that will shape your understanding of your members, donors, and volunteers.
Internal Records and Databases
You need to understand the behavioral patterns of both your ideal and current members, donors, and volunteers. The good news is that you should already have some of that data. Dive into your membership databases, donations records, and volunteer logs. These documents can reveal patterns in demographics, participation rates, and engagement levels.
Speak with your members, donors, and volunteers directly to learn why they engage with your organization. Engaging in one-on-one conversations provides a depth of understanding that quantitative data alone cannot offer. These interviews can uncover personal stories, motivations, and suggestions for improvement. Past surveys, feedback forms, and questionnaires can also be helpful resources for understanding preferences and experiences.
Understand how your members, donors, and volunteers engage with your organization behind their screens.
Analyze interactions on your social media platforms. Comments, likes, and shares can indicate what content resonates with your community and provide insight into their preferences. Tools like Google Analytics can show you which pages on your nonprofit’s website attract the most attention. This information can highlight the needs of your website visitors and the paths they follow to engage with you online.
What If You’re Starting From Scratch?
Starting from scratch can be intimidating, but it can also be a good thing. The first step to making an impact is understanding how to best serve your community. Creating audience personas means you’re on the right track.
Research other nonprofit community centers that share a similar mission or serve a similar community. Reading testimonials from similar nonprofits is a great way to learn why community members are engaging with organizations like yours. While crafting your new audience personas, note the information you wish you had. Use those notes to develop a list of questions you can ask to refine your audience personas.
Remember, these audience personas are not just abstract concepts. They represent the real individuals engaging with your organization. Investing in accurate personas creates an environment where every member feels seen, every donor feels valued, and every volunteer feels appreciated. By approaching the process with curiosity and openness, you’re well on your way to creating audience personas that truly reflect and resonate with your community.
Ready to Connect With Your Members Online?
The way you speak to your members matters, especially when you’re communicating digitally. Learn more about how you can cut through the noise and reach your members with your website and digital marketing.