How to Create Marketing Personas for Your Nonprofit

Your email list, your donor database, and your social connections are more than audience segments: they’re people. And people connect with people, not data.

Personas turn your database into a person with a story – a marketing persona.

Marketing Personas are fictitious characters you create to represent your various audience segments – subscribers, advocates, donors, volunteers, etc. They have faces, names, and stories.

They’re nothing more than a tool to help you better understand – with your heart – what motivates people to donate, volunteer, and support your org. For example, you can use personas to write fundraising emails that have more impact.

And the better you define your marketing personas, the easier it will be to create social media content, website copy, email messages, etc.

6 Steps To Creating Marketing Personas for Your Nonprofit

You’re an expert on people. You’ve been one all your life.

So let’s keep this simple:

1. Define Your Segments

Start with a list of the various segments that you deal with. And give them names! This will help you interact with them once you start asking them questions.

2. Define Demographics

Demographics, as we will see, are very different from Personas. It’s very difficult to create content that resonates when all you know is where someone lives and how much money they make.

Still, you have to start somewhere and demographics is a perfectly fine place to start.

  • Where do they live?
  • What gender are they?
  • What level of education have they achieved?
  • What is their income?
  • What is their marital status?
  • Do they have kids?

3. Articulate Their Values and Beliefs

Next, you’ll want to know what their values, opinions, and beliefs are.

Knowing this information will give you a very good handle on what will be going on in their heads when they visit your website, complete a donation or attend an event.

What’s great about social media is that you can get this information simply by visiting social profiles. This gets much easier if you use a service like Rapportive or have social CRM features built into your donor database.

4. Get Under Their Skin

Next, you want to articulate what deeply motivates them on an emotional level. This sounds hard, but once you have demographic and psychographic information, getting under their skin will come natural because guess what –  you’re an expert.

All you have to do is empathize, bring out your compassionate side. Feel the feels.

Then start asking some of these questions:

  • What matters most in their lives? Family?
  • What are their day-to-day worries and goals?
  • How do you matter in their lives?
  • What behaviors are they trying to change?

5. Define The Value They Get From Your Organization

Knowing what their beliefs are and what moves them emotionally will enable you to articulate exactly why they would donate to you or volunteer. You’ll start to understand the real emotional reasons around why they donate or volunteer.

6. Give Them a Face and a Name

Finally, you want to give them a name and a face. Get a picture from a site like Fotolia or Shutterstock. Give them a name that includes an adjective that describes their personality. For example, Rita Righteous or Laid-back Larry (see Blackbaud’s example above).

Giving them a name and a face will make your marketing personas feel more real. This way, when you’re developing a landing page for your next campaign, you’ll be able to easily discuss user motivations and problems with others on your team.

Here’s a sample persona (client name removed).


Click here to view the full-size version of this example persona.

Make your Personas immortal

The downside of personas is that they aren’t real people. So talk to your supporters at every chance you get. IRL.

Seek to understand who they are (you’re probably doing this anyhow). And notice what seems inconsistent with your current personas.

Make a point of regularly updating your personas.

Does your organization use personas?

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John Haydon