Creating Audience Personas for Your Nonprofit

creating audience personas

When you’re making marketing decisions for your nonprofit, it can be easy to forget the people on the receiving end. It’s common to get wrapped up in what you and your team think will work best. But, forgetting to consider the people you’re trying to reach often results in failed campaigns. Keeping your target audience top of mind when making decisions is key.

For this post, we’re going to assume you’ve identified your target audiences and are ready to incorporate them into your nonprofit’s marketing strategy. (If either one of those assumptions is incorrect, check out the two posts we linked to before diving back in.) But, where to begin?

Create audience personas.

Why Audience Personas Matter

A persona is a fictional person created to represent a target audience.

Audience personas make the people you’re targeting real. They help you identify the needs and interests of your top groups. After you’ve decided on a handful of target audiences (based on your nonprofit’s goals), you’ll need to determine how best to reach these people.

Building personas for each of these groups helps you match your perspective with their’s. You’re able to put yourself in their shoes and get a real understanding of what matters to them. Essentially, audience personas help you narrow your focus to the interests of a specific group, which makes developing targeted marketing campaigns much, much easier.

Creating Your Personas

With audience personas, the more information you gather, the better. You want to fully understand your target audiences. So, with that being said, there’s some information you’ll want to include for every persona.

Let’s assume your organization is a women’s shelter and one of your target audiences is volunteers. You’re located in a small town, and you get a ton of student volunteers from the local university. You’ve decided Sally Sorority will represent this audience.

What do you need to know about Sally?

Picture

You don’t have to associate an actual person with your persona, but visual aids are great. Grab a stock photo to use with your persona. It will make Sally feel even more real.

Background

You need a solid understanding of where this person is coming from. What do they do for a living? What’s their educational background? Are they married or single? Do they have kids? Build out some of the details of their life.

Sally is a 20 year-old college student. She attends the local university and is super involved in philanthropy through her sorority. She grew up in town and plays soccer for the university.

General Demographics

What do the demographics for this audience look like? You’ll want to note if the group skews female or male, the age range and what sort of income members of this group are making. In terms of gathering this information, it could be something you already have or you may need to do a little digging around online.

Sally is a 20 year old female who attends the local university and is in a sorority. She perfectly aligns with the shelter’s general volunteer demographics: female, local university student between the ages of 18 and 22, involved in a sorority, low to no personal income.

Identifiers

Identifiers are what help you determine if someone falls into one of your target audiences. It could be anything from action they take with your nonprofit to their current life situation. It really depends on the specific audience.

How do we know Sally is a good volunteer candidate? She attends the local university and is in a sorority that has a history of working with this nonprofit.

Goals

There’s really no way to generalize this one. It depends largely on your nonprofit and the audience. What matters to this group? What are they trying to achieve by interacting with your nonprofit? In what ways does their connection to you benefit them?

Sally Sorority has a good heart, but she also needs community service hours to remain an active member of her sorority. That’s her primary motivation for volunteering.

Challenges

What challenges face your target audiences? What could prevent them from engaging with your nonprofit?

Sally’s busy. She’s got school, soccer, her sorority and a part time job. She doesn’t have a lot of free time. So, even though she loves working with your nonprofit and desperately needs those community service hours, finding the time is difficult. It’s hard for her to do things on short notice.

And, those are the essentials. You’ll want to make sure you know at least this much about each character you build to represent a target audience. With this information, you’ll be on your way to having a solid understanding of the people that matter to your nonprofit and how to make decisions based on their needs and interests.

Does your nonprofit use audience personas to inform marketing decisions? Is there any other helpful information you like to include about your characters? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.