How to Boost Your Fundraising With Persona Development

What is a persona?

Buyers personas are advanced audience profiles typically developed for inbound marketing campaigns aimed

at the promotion of a product. However, when the inbound methodology is applied to fundraising and recruiting efforts for volunteers, these profiling tools are equally effective at guiding marketing strategies for nonprofits.

buyer persona is a “semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

However, when applied to your non-profit marketing efforts, a persona refers to your ideal donor or volunteer. Like a buyer persona, a fully fleshed-out donor persona will include demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and

goals. The more accurate and in-depth your persona, the better, as you want to make your messages and appeals as targeted as possible.

Why do you need personas?

Insights – the kind that can make or break your fundraising strategy. Persona development looks at everything pertinent to your relationship with your donors, and personas offer the primary means of determining how you approach your various audience segments. A fully fleshed-out persona will include all of the following:

Values & interests

It’s much easier to recruit donors and volunteers who already have an interest in your cause or who have already shown support for other worthy causes. But this isn’t the only reason you should be aware of their values and interests. This information can also tell you what kinds of fundraising events will find the most traction with your prospects.

Communication styles

Communication style is closely related to a persona’s values, and comprehensive persona development will take both into account. For example, Generation X is notoriously cynical of advertising marketing, and messages that are overly slick will only earn their disdain. To reach these skeptics, it’s better to use simple language that focuses on facts.

Channel and media preferences

Today, the vast majority of your potential supporters (even baby boomers) are on some kind of social media, but this knowledge is of no use if you don’t know which networks. Complete personas will tell you which channels you should target and which content you should use to appeal to them. You can use both gated videos and downloadable eBooks as conversion assets, but you should choose these according to your personas’ preferences.

How do you get persona development right?


Ask the right questions. You need to understand your donors, and I mean really understand them. Get to know their professions, skills, channel preference, attitudes, beliefs, and motivations. This information will tell you how to appeal to them and how much they can afford to donate. To gain such an in-depth understanding of your audience, use social media, website forms and customer interviews in your persona development.

Treat your personas like real people

Think of your personas as real people. They have dreams, desires, and concerns, and and they are wandering around out there in a maelstrom of marketing messages. If you want to cut through the clutter, your messages will have to speak directly to their altruistic instincts by prompting an emotional response.

Put your personas at the center of everything you do

To ensure the kind of message relevance that will boost your fundraising, you need to make sure that your persona development aligns your various marketing activities with your personas. This is so important, that I’m going to say that you need to make a commitment to persona alignment. By following these three steps, you’ll put your personas at the center of everything you do:

  • persona development
  • the buyer’s journey
  • strategy-persona alignment

How do you know who your personas should be based on?

To develop the right personas, look at your audience segments. For marketing a nonprofit, the most important groups will be those that align with the different generations. These determine the most effective channels and appeals to reach a specific audience, and will play a big part in how nonprofits change their approach to reach the increasingly important younger generations.

To learn more about the differences between Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers and how best to target them, download our guide on how to attract and retain new donors.