How to build donor personas for your nonprofit

Personas Graphic

Sales and marketing professionals use personas to understand their various types of buyers and audiences, making it easier to analyze and target potential customers.

Did you know that creating donor personas (also known as donor profiles) can help your nonprofit organization fundraise more effectively?

Why build donor personas

Your base of supporters is diverse. There are donors who will contribute as much as they can each year, those who can’t give much but always want to volunteer, one-time donors and others who will vary their support year-to-year. Supporters vary in gender, age, profession and location. Despite all of these individual differences, diving into your demographic data will reveal trends and groupings about the way certain types of supporters behave when it comes to your cause.

When you identify and name these groups, you can create useful donor personas! Donor personas help you paint an easy-to-understand picture of your supporters to learn their habits and preferences. Use your personas as a guide to segment the right communication to the right audience.

A good donor persona also prepares you to spot future supporters when you come across them in-person or online.

How to build effective personas

  • Choose the ‘focus’ criteria for your personas. This might begin with your personal expertise about your supporters, but your donor management software can be a great asset too! Whether it’s occupation, age group, or relation to the cause, the SmartLists in your donor management software can help you identify what habits these groups have.
  • Create lists of those who fit the personas. Your donor management software will allow you to easily create lists of donors who fit your main criteria, and it should automatically update to include new supporters whose information you capture online.
  • Develop the profiles of your personas. You can use your donor management software to slice-and-dice these new lists, and look at different charts showing more commonalities among them. For example, if you selected occupation as your main criteria, you may now learn that most of the “business executives” are between ages 40 and 60, donate more than $250 per year, and live close to a major city. Meanwhile, the “tradesperson” group might most commonly include those between the ages of 25 and 45, prefer to volunteer than to donate, and live in a rural area. Once you’ve found these characteristics, you can write them out in a brief biography of the ‘typical’ donor.
  • Turn your persona into a person! A list of characteristics or a detailed biography is important to have, but it’s not going to memorable and easy-to-use. With those in hand, you can give a name that fits your key characteristic, like your tradesperson Tommy or business executive Emily, and find a picture on Google images that matches the way you’ve described them. This is definitely a part where you can have some fun!
  • Identify and track your personas in your donor management software. Your donor management software will let you monitor the lists of supporters who fit your personas easily, so that you can adjust your descriptions if they’re not holding true. You can also use the information within your donor management software to identify new supporters who fit the persona, and use a custom field to make it clear right on their donor profile.

GiftWorks is the perfect tool to build your donor personas. It’s designed exclusively for nonprofits and integrates seamlessly with FrontStream’s fundraising solutions. Try it free today!

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