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Who Are These People? Tips For Moving Beyond The General Public

Resource Center - Foundation

By Danielle Johnson

You’re probably sending communications on a weekly basis via multiple channels as part of an effort to educate, motivate and engage constituents. But do you write for a general audience, or do you write for your constituents? Is content based on their interests, motivations, passions, geography, status, or even their age?

Your audience is not the general public. Even the biggest corporations don’t market to the general public. They target their ads to the people that are interested (or could be interested) in their products.

Let’s start with whom you do know

Your constituents are a mix of volunteers, board members, donors, prospects, perhaps alumni or program recipients, employees, businesses and community leaders. But, these categories are too broad to target—your true audience lies within these groups.

Go deeper. Look at things like the demographics of individuals: gender, age, location, education level and family status, for example. Figure out whom your donors are and why they are giving. Discover what motivates them, what worries them and how they like to give. What is the makeup of non-donors , volunteers, program recipients, alumni, prospects that attended an event, new online subscribers. Let the details form a picture of your audience. 

If your constituents are made up heavily of businesses, then look at physical location, number of employees, giving priorities, industry, length of involvement with your organization, volunteer engagement and whom from the company is connected to the mission.

It’s clear your audience goes deeper than just donors or prospects. By targeting subsets of your constituents you create an opportunity for deeper engagement by sharing information that matters to them. Begin by identifying three or four main audiences (focus on the largest subsets within your base). Once you decide on the audiences, create personas for each.

Once you’ve developed the personas, you can begin to segment and target your communications and solicitations based on your real audience. Focusing on these personas will drive engaging and compelling content: the best images to use, channels for communication, stories that will resonate, frequency and so on.

Here are some resources to help you begin to understand your audience

  • Another great resource is the What Canadian Donors Want research report from the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy - Canada and the market research firm Ipsos. If you haven’t asked your donors who they are and what they want, use this as a benchmark.  

Danielle Johnson is an interactive strategy consultant at Blackbaud.  She is an in-demand consultant and speaker for events like Digital Leap, AFP Planet Philanthropy, the Boys & Girls Club Southeast Regional Conference and numerous events.  Prior to Blackbaud, Danielle worked in the nonprofit industry in roles such as director of individual giving at Boys & Girls Clubs, leadership giving manager at the Red Cross and director of development at HUGS for Kids. Find her on Twitter: @DJVermenton.

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