how to create a

donor persona profile

Intro

Why Do You Need This Donor Persona Guide?​

We love empowering nonprofits to grow and succeed. Sometimes growth is treated like a dirty word when it’s used as an ambition for nonprofits. This shouldn’t be the case! We know that you aren’t trying to grow for the sake of growth itself. You are trying to grow so you can more effectively carry out the mission that your nonprofit exists to address.

If you’re involved in any way with marketing for a nonprofit organization, this guide will be extremely valuable to you. Put these principles into action to attract more donors and provide better, more tailored content to the people who support your organization.

By following this guide to create and start using donor personas, you’ll be able to market more effectively by customizing content to the groups of people you want to attract.

donor personas + why you need them.

What is a donor persona?

Donor personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal donors. You identify these personas through key factors like: longest lifetime givers, highest annual giving, etc. Basically, your donor personas are the people you are targeting to engage with your organization and contribute to your cause.

You can have more than one! There may be two or three different types of people who would be likely to donate to your organization. To keep it simple, start by identifying one donor persona for your nonprofit, then add to it as necessary.

How do donor personas add value?

Donor personas add necessary structure to your marketing strategy. Even if you already receive a steady flow of donations, you have the opportunity to grow by identifying what your current donors have in common and what inspires them to give.

Donor personas provide tremendous structure and insight that will help you determine where to focus your fundraising and event marketing efforts. They help you understand your target donor audience better, and make it easier for you to tailor content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of relevant groups. As a result, you will attract the most valuable visitors, leads, and ultimately donors to your organization.

Think about how much more effectively you could reach high value or recurring donors if you knew their interests, where they go to find information about your cause, and even what websites or physical locations they frequent. It can make a huge difference!

donor persona types.

1. One-time donor persona

A one-time donor persona is someone who has contributed financially to your nonprofit once, or very infrequently. This type of donor typically hasn’t heard much about your organization and doesn’t donate frequently.

2. Large-gift donor persona

Donors who make large financial contributions are very valuable to any nonprofit. They don’t grow on trees though.

3. Frequent donor persona

You can always count on this type of donor to participate in your fundraisers. Typically, this persona likes to stay up-to-date with what your nonprofit is doing because they truly believe in your nonprofit’s mission.

4. Corporate sponsor donor persona

Corporate sponsor donor personas are separate from your other personas because they have different motives to partner with your cause than an individual does. You’ll have to showcase different content that appeals to corporate sensibilities. Corporations might partner with a nonprofit to showcase their philanthropic efforts and raise awareness of their business.

5. Volunteer persona

Those who donate their time to your nonprofit are of equal value to those who contribute financially. It’s important to think about what makes these donor’s tick. You may have some volunteers that help your cause because they truly enjoy donating their time to your organization. At the same time, you may also have people volunteering because they need to fulfill a requirement for school or work.

Remember, all of these types of donor personas can be valuable, and it can be great in the long run to target multiple types. If this is your first experience with donor personas, focus on the one that is the best fit for your organization first, then expand out from there as you see growth.

creating a donor persona.

conducting research.

Here’s the simple truth: even a small number of five-minute interviews with key donors can provide a wealth of insight into your entire audience. Analytics also provide valuable data about your persona's interests and demographics.

Ask Key Questions in Your Interviews/Surveys
Asking key questions is a great way to gain valuable insight into the factors driving your audience to give. By figuring out what inspires existing donors, you can improve your marketing efforts to recruit new donors who have similar values and trigger points. Ask these questions in face-to-face interviews and online surveys.

Use Analytics to Find More Data
The most powerful tools for evaluating an audience come from the top three social media platforms: Facebook Audience Insights, Twitter Analytics, and Instagram Insights. These should be your first stop on a data deep-dive. Use their valuable demographic information to identify your existing audience, along with analytics about your top-performing posts and activities on each platform.

Pay attention to how your audience “lives” online when it’s not directly interacting with your organization. Look at who your current donors and volunteers follow online, what communities they participate in, and what their preferred platforms are.

creating a donor persona.

interview tips.

Interviews are a big part of gaining insight into your donor persona. Here are some quick tips on ensuring it goes as effectively as possible.

1. Start With Thanks

Once you’ve made contact, always thank them first—both for their willingness to speak with you now, and for their past support. Be specific about their role with your organization and directly reference whatever action they took—whether that’s donating, volunteering, or being a member of your in-house team.

2. Explain the Interview’s Purpose

The key to defusing any potential tension is to immediately make it clear that you’re not soliciting new donations. After the initial introduction, explain that the purpose of your outreach is to conduct a donor interview to improve your marketing efforts.

3. Be Flexible with Your Schedule

While some contacts might be available for an immediate interview, more often you’ll need to schedule a future conversation. When scheduling, offer as much flexibility as possible to reduce any pain-points that could lead to a declined invitation.

4. Incentivize Your Interviewees

If a prospective interviewee seems hesitant to make a firm appointment, offer an incentive like gift cards, marketing swag, or free tickets to an upcoming event. If hesitant subjects become a theme of your efforts, it’s probably best to start offering the incentive at the very start of your conversations.

5. Prepare Pre-Interview Material

Asking a question that an interviewee doesn’t know how to answer can eat up a lot of precious time, and before you know it the “quick” interview has gone long. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to send your subjects a brief summary of the questions you’ll be asking. This allows them to look them over and get comfortable before the interview starts.

Once you’ve smoothed the pain-points for prospective interviewees and framed their participation as support for your cause, valuable insight is right around the corner. Donor personas are only as strong as the interviews you used to create them, so getting it right from the start is the best way to maximize the value you’ll generate in the process.

creating a donor persona.

assembling the profile.

When you are researching your donors, you’ll come across a lot of information. So how do you decide what needs to go into your donor persona profile?

Here are 4 sections you need to have in your profile: who, what, why, and how.

Who?

Include details about their occupation, education level, family life, marital status, and career path.

You’ll have most of these details if you already had a target audience carved out. If not, you can pick up these details from interviewing or social media insights. Age range, gender, income level, and location are all details that fall into this category.

In this section, notate how he/she prefers to communicate with organizations. Options for this include social media, text, email, in-person, etc. This is also where you’ll record their preferred social media platforms if any are applicable.

What?

Consider your donor persona’s life or career goals. Then, think about how your organization can help them meet those goals.

Also take their life or career challenges into consideration. Relate these challenges back to your organization and consider how you can show your audience how you can help them overcome their challenges.

why?

In their profile, be sure to include quotes from donor interviews or social media reviews to show exactly the type of things your donor persona would say. These quotes can talk about their goals, challenges, and how your nonprofit helps them accomplish and overcome those. They can also discuss why they specifically chose your organization for a donation, or how they found your organization.

List any reasons that your donor persona would choose not to donate to your organization. This gives you what to avoid. Objections might be: lack of transparency, aggressive donation requests, etc.

How?

Summarize how you would clearly and concisely explain your organization’s mission to interest this particular donor persona.

The final step in personifying your target audience is to give them a name! It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just make it something quick and catchy that your nonprofit team can remember. Referring to your target audience as something like “Donor Don” will humanize your persona.

how to use your donor persona.

So, you’ve done the research and created a donor persona profile for your nonprofit. Congratulations! That’s a huge step.

Now what?
It’s time to start integrating all of the information you’ve gathered into your marketing strategy. Let’s go over 5 ways to use your donor persona:

1. Create Engaging Content for Your Persona

One of the main reasons you created a donor persona was to generate content that is tailored to their preferences. Now that you know what they like and what makes them tick, you can easily create engaging content for your persona.

Use the knowledge you have about their content preferences and tie it in with your end goal. Would your donor persona rather your nonprofit spell out exactly how much it needs to hit its next goal, or would they prefer to see success stories? Before you publish your next piece of content, ask yourself: "Will this make my donor persona want to donate again?"

2. Communicate with Your Personas on Their Preferred Platform

Even the best letter is wasted if it's sent to the wrong address, so be sure to stay relevant to your donor persona by sharing your message on a platform they use frequently. Whether your persona prefers to hear from you through email or social media, channel preferences are key for guaranteeing targeting success.

3. Plan Fundraising Events Based on Your Persona’s Interests and Demographics

Now that you know more about your donor persona’s lifestyle and what inspires them to give, you can plan events and fundraisers that align with their interests and demographics. Since your donor persona now hugely influences the scope of your marketing, you always want to "put yourself in their shoes" and consider what would make them want to come to your event. You can also use the knowledge that you have about their everyday lifestyle to determine an ideal time and date for your event.

4. Use the Right Keywords in Your Online Search Ads

Your donor persona has preferences about the kind of language that speaks most strongly to them. From a marketing standpoint, this means that some keywords will have a higher success rate than others. That's why it's important to mimic the exact language of your donor personas whenever possible, especially when it comes to keywords.

Use that precise terminology in your ad copy, and always keep an eye on search trends for your personas so you can adjust your messaging language over time.

5. Re-evaluate Your Donor Personas Every 6 Months

After you create your persona profile and implement the information into your marketing strategy, revisit it in 6 months. You’ll want to see how much you’ve improved and what didn’t work so well. Take a look at the areas that can be improved and do some research to see if a new trend has come along that has impacted your audience.

Make small updates to your donor persona profile and be sure to share them with your team! The more you optimize your donor persona profile, the more targeted your messages will be.

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bringing it all together.

Creating a donor persona for your nonprofit is just the first step to reaching out to the right people. It will help you maximize the impact of each marketing effort you make. From ad copy to videos, fundraising events and more, sending the right message to the right people is the best way to extract value from your audience. Want a fill-in-the-blank template to create your own donor persona? Click the button below to download one so you can get started!