How to Develop Audience Personas for Your Nonprofit

[Part 5 in a Series on Launching a Content Marketing Program]

Who is your content meant to reach? When you craft content to support a campaign or program, do you have a specific person in mind or do you write to a general audience?

Writing to a general audience – in hopes of capturing as many supporters as possible – will yield lackluster results. As the saying goes, if you try to matter to everyone, you will end up mattering to no one. In order to reach the people who need to hear your message, you must understand them as much as possible. You need to develop audience personas.

What is an audience persona?

Creating content takes considerable time and effort. An audience persona is a tool to help you answer “who” you are addressing in your marketing.

A persona is a composite sketch of a segment of your audience that assists you with tailoring messaging and building engagement that results in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Audience personas better enable you to resonate and engage with those people who need to hear your message. Your messaging will be most effective when you empathize with your audience and connect the dots between what your organization offers and their interests, motivations, and challenges.

The use of audience personas reminds you to view your content through the eyes of people who matter – which improves the quality of every piece of content you create.

One of my favorite marketing quotes is from author and copywriter Robert Collier. It’s a bit of old school wisdom from the early twentieth century. Collier said, “Always enter the conversation taking place in the customer’s mind.” Meaning, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with your content. If you have well-defined audience personas, you just tap into the thoughts already going on in their heads.

You will need to create an audience persona for every segment for whom you create content. Think about all the different groups you reach, such as donors, volunteers, members, participants, students, patrons, and board members, among others. Each of these groups has different needs, desires, and motivators, and each needs a persona.

Creating audience personas for your nonprofit

Content Marketing Institute teaches an easy method for building audience personas. I will apply their method to the nonprofit sector.

WHO is the persona?

Scratch the surface with demographics (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, religion, location, education, career, family, socioeconomic status.) Give this persona a first name and photo to keep her top-of-mind when developing content.

WHAT roles does she play?

What does her typical day look like? What are her interests, hobbies, values, dreams, goals, and passions?

WHERE is there a gap in her needs/wants?

What keeps her up at night? How is she trying to create a meaningful life? What motivates her? What are her pain points and challenges?

WHEN does she need to close this gap?

What needs to happen in order to earn her trust? What might be some hurdles to overcome to bring her closer to your organization?

WHY would she care about your organization?

Why would you matter to her? Are other organizations with similar missions also engaging her? What kinds of content would interest her? What calls-to-action would she be most likely to complete?

Examples of Audience Personas

Here are a couple good examples for you. You’ll see that there is no one right way to create a persona.

10 Examples of Detailed Content Marketing Personas

What Does a Great Buyer Persona Look Like? Dissecting 3 Real-Life Examples

Keep in mind that your audience personas do not need to be perfect from the get-go; you can always modify them. Be sure to document the personas and share them with your content creators so that they know to whom they are writing and engaging.


This was Part 5 in a series on Developing a Content Marketing Program.

Part 1 explains what content marketing is and why you should develop a content marketing program.

Part 2 drives home the need for a content marketing program by showing you 5 big mistakes you might be making with your content.

Part 3 gives you the tools you need to write your content marketing mission statement.

Part 4 describes how an argument transforms a pile of facts into an engaging story and how to find YOUR story.

Part 5 helps you develop audience personas to better enable you to resonate and engage with those people who need to hear your message.

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One of the best ways to move your nonprofit's mission forward is to be smart about the content you create.

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