Persona Marketing for Nonprofits 101

What is Persona Marketing?

Persona marketing is the practice of marketing to a specific audience, typically personified in a single user profile.

Persona marketing is a traditional marketing method that works beautifully for digital, especially because of the precise targeting of digital advertising. By examining all of the various passion points, demographic information, digital usage patterns, media consumption and behavioral characteristics within your audience, you begin to define the exact person you are communicating with. Turning your nebulous “community” into a few distinct types of people helps keep your messaging, segmentation and overall communications airtight.

Best part? That means your budget will go dramatically further, your messaging will resonate more powerfully and your conversion rates will be exponentially higher.

A high-level persona might look something like this:

persona marketing: spiritual well-informed women

From here, we can easily develop interest, demographic and keyword targeting.

How Do I Determine My Personas?

First, start with examining your existing systems.

Look at your website traffic, your CRM data and your social audiences. At the basic level, you’d want to look at Facebook insights and the Audience tab in Google Analytics. For example, I may examine my nonprofit’s audience to learn that they are:

  • 55% female, ages 35-55
  • Primarily in large cities
  • 45% Caucasian
  • Engage with content involving children or families
  • Tend to share inspirational social media posts, sometimes with scriptural or Biblical quotes
  • Follow many local organizations, including a place of worship
  • Are well-informed with current events and actively share news articles

This should quickly paint a picture for you on the mindset of a part of your audience, let’s say Spiritual, Well-Informed Women. Keep going to find more patterns and personas within your audience. Remember, you’re trying to find different types of people to be able to communicate with each segment more specifically.

Then, look at your competitor’s social audiences and engagement.

You may notice things like:

  • People post many questions that go unanswered or are answered half-heartedly
  • Audience sizes are large, but many of the posts have very low engagement
  • The organization’s posts that contain big accomplishments have the most engagement

This should quickly tell you that the audiences of your competitor are largely disengaged from the organization except for big accomplishments, and those who want to be more involved are unsatisfied. Your immediate opportunities become 1) more transparent communications, 2) being more vocal about your victories.

Young woman using tablet with email icons around

The Survey

This is where the majority of your qualitative insights into messaging come through. Ideally, you do some interviews and a survey. Below are our five survey questions that yield the most insightful responses. Use a word cloud or text analysis tool to help you find patterns within the open responses. You can then match these back with the demographic information to see if the patterns hold true.

1 – Qualify Interest

This helps you understand the mindset of why someone is interested in your organization’s area of focus.

“Please describe your interest in animal welfare?”

Option A: Animals are living beings, and I don’t like seeing them mistreated.
Option B: I was very close to my pets, and feel all animals deserve a loving home.
Option C: Animal welfare is part of who I am; I’m vegan and volunteer regularly.
Option D: I just love animals.

To get insight into each type of answer, ask users to rank their feelings on a scale of 1-5.

2 – Find Competitors

See what opportunities you may have from other organizations.

“What other organizations do you support?”

A: Local animal shelters
B: National animal welfare organizations
C: None
D: Other (please specify)

Layer options for volunteering, donating, advocacy and/or follow on social media to determine levels of engagement with potential competitors

3 – Why me? Part 1

Get some thought flowing into your supporters’ individual relationship with you.

“Why do you support the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals?”

A: I attend your events with my kids
B: I adopted from you
C: I believe in your mission
D: I appreciate your role in our neighborhood
E: My family has always supported MSPCA

Use this as a primary filter to sort through the other answers. This will help you automatically identify demographic patterns by the motivation. You may find, for example, that younger people are most likely to support after an event.

4 – Why me? Part 2

Capitalize on the thought process of the previous question by asking them to phrase in their own words.

“In your own words, please tell us why you donate to MSPCA.”
[Open response box, 100 words limit.]

Avoid randomizing the order of your questions. You want this to always follow the previous question.

5 – What does success look like?

Find out what wins you should be sharing.

“What do you consider an effective use of your donation to be?”

A: 10 animals rescued and adopted this month
B: Renovated the kennel for better climate control
C: Expanded the kennel to hold 24 more animals
D: Hosted 8 events for young children to play with animals
E: Began offering birthday parties on a donation-basis for young children

Make sure to use “Check all that apply” in your language and survey functionality. You can also play with the numbers to see how big your stats really need to be before sharing. You may be surprised!

win email marketing for nonprofits

How do I make the most of persona marketing?

There are two key pieces of persona marketing to help your nonprofit go further.

1 – Audience Growth

Use your insights to determine target markets/audiences to advertise to. Your insights should guide messaging, targeting parameters and content. If you segment your advertising narrow enough, you’ll be able to reach a specific persona with the message most likely to resonate with them. It’s best to layer in a few different versions of creative to determine most powerful combinations of imagery, copy and calls-to-action and which personas are most likely to respond.


2 – Audience Conversion

Obviously, at the end of all this, you want your audience to help you do something. This could be volunteer, donate, participate in an event, start a team or sign a petition. The best way to convert to personas is to build in email segmentation that will automatically send a targeted email with that persona’s messaging and call-to-action. Additionally, you can keep track of which people respond to which messaging to build out custom audiences on social media.


Need help getting started with supporter and audience discovery? We’d love to help! Get in touch with us.