Detailed Guide to Your Nonprofit’s Audience Persona

Once you start a nonprofit organization, you need to develop a marketing strategy that works best. Knowing your target audience helps to create content based on its specifics.

The audience of a nonprofit is diverse. Every group – clients, donors, staff, volunteers, media, the local community – requires an individual approach.

This article provides step-by-step instruction of creating an audience persona – one of the key tools for better understanding each segment of your target audience.

Let’s Differ Audience Persona from Target Audience

  • Target audience

For nonprofits, it’s, on the one hand, socially vulnerable categories of the population who get the assistance of your organization. On the other hand, it’s those members of the society who support the organization in achieving its goals (donors, volunteers, staff members).

For the most effective implementation of goals, you need to segment your donors and audiences.

The target audience is divided into primary and secondary.

The primary target audience is people on whom the organization has a direct impact. And at the same time, your nonprofit’s activities depend on their actions, opinions, and needs.

A secondary target audience is a group of people that affects the primary audience. In turn, the opinions and activities of the secondary audience can cause the primary audience to take note of your information, change their attitude or behavior towards it.

Defining your target audience is describing it in detail, highlighting its characteristic features (age, gender, location, interests).

  • Audience persona 

It’s a documented portrait of the perfect representative of your target audience. A persona does not rely on one specific person. This is a collective image that reflects the majority of the target audience.

Building an audience persona involves a comprehensive study of donors, volunteers, clients, employees, and other representatives of the target audience, depending on the goals of the organization.

Unlike the target audience, which is described by socio-demographic, psychographic, behavioral characteristics, a persona is more focused on the needs, motivations, expectations of the audience. This is an individualized model that the organization focuses on when creating content.

Benefits of Building Audience Personas

Understanding a persona can improve the situation with your target audience. This is the first step towards creating an effective marketing strategy.

To make this tool work, the elaboration of a persona must be as detailed as possible. This will allow you to understand the motivation, needs, expectations, and interests of your target audience. Which, in turn, is essential for building long-term cooperation.

Gender, age, demographic indicators of your donors and clients are the simplest level of understanding of the audience. The next significant step is developing personas, which gives you a much more complete image of the audience’s life cycle and its interest in your work.

Modeling a persona takes place for each segment of your target audience. Getting started, you can focus on developing 3 primary audience personas – for donors, clients, and volunteers/staff.

Four Steps to Build Personas

  1. Make Research

Your existing donors, volunteers, clients, and co-workers are a great source of information that you need.

Interview them. It’s diligent but interesting and important work. The more data you collect at this stage the more detailed and useful image of personas you will end up with.

Go to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. These platforms are a great source of what’s essential for your audience. Minding it provides you with the opportunity to address on a more personal level.

Mind every piece of information, see how total strangers turn into real people with their worldview and activities, families and friends, interests, and preferences.

Why is the research work important? Because one way or another, their life circumstances are the reason for having the will to support your organization.

At this stage, you have to create a profile for each donor/client/etc. containing the following categories:

  • Demographics (age, gender, location, education, employment, marital status, and other info that’s essential for the type of your nonprofit).
  • Goals and values (primary and secondary goals, fears connected with goals, main values).
  • How you can help (what your nonprofit does to help people achieve their goals and fight their fears).
  • What differs your donor/client/volunteer from representatives of the same social stratum.

Use Internet surveys (such as Survey Monkey and Google forms) to reach a bigger audience.

Also make use of web analytics services (Google Analytics, MailChimp, SimilarWeb, Facebook Analytics, Facebook Audience Insights (if you have a business profile)) to find out the characteristics and interests of your online audience

  1. Analyze and Integrate

Since a persona is a generalized image of a potential or real audience, the next step of developing it is analyzing data to find patterns and define types of people you can combine in one.

The types you highlight may differ from your expectations. And this is a good indicator. It defines the quality of your research work.

  1. Create a Profile and Get Acquainted

Make profiles for each of your audience personas, add pics and characteristics. Examine them. Introduce personas to your staff.

Getting acquainted with the desires and needs of your audience leads you to the understanding of what truly is valuable and important for your potential or real clients and donors.

Does your audience look different now? What strategies are you going to use to engage their attention? How are you going to address each persona?

  1. Repeat

Building an audience persona is not a one-time action. It isn’t something you do once and for all.

First, watch if there are any changes in the interaction with the audience. Are they preferable ones? What can be improved?

Then start building secondary personas. Make research and create an image.

Finally, get assured you are aware of changes. From time to time, check the needs, preferences, and goals of your audience. Your organization is developing, involving more and more new people. Therefore, it is important to stay in touch with them and adapt to their features when needed.

Mind Negative Personas

A negative persona is an important component of the audience’s portraiture. It’s impossible not to have one.

Negative personas reveal target groups on which spending resources is least beneficial. It’s just not your audience. It’s rational to be aware of them to include in your marketing strategy.

As well as you did with audience personas, determine the characteristics of negative personas, and create their profiles with a detailed description.


  • An audience persona is a useful tool for effective work with the target audience.
  • Identifying a persona requires a careful study of your stakeholders.
  • Use online services to research the audience of your web resources.
  • Make profiles of primary, secondary, and negative personas.
  • Repeat research to supplement and adjust profiles.

This guide was brought to you by DonorBox.