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How to Create Donor Personas: Step One


By Elizabeth Pun

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

You may have the best fundraising campaign idea, but it won’t get off the ground unless you can talk about it effectively. In order to do that, you have to know who you’re talking to.

This means your fundraising success relies on a solid understanding of your current and potential donor base. After all, it’s difficult to initiate a meaningful conversation when you don’t know your audience. Knowing your supporters and what inspires them to get involved is critical to building successful fundraising and engagement strategies.

That’s where donor personas come in.

What Are Donor Personas?

Donor personas are archetypes of your ideal donors. Based on real data about your current and potential donor base—including demographics, behavior patterns, goals, interests, and concerns—these profiles illustrate the types of people with whom your organization wants to engage.

Creating these personas can help your organization:

• Create highly targeted content relevant to each audience’s goals and interests
• Attract people to your website through targeted marketing materials
• Identify where donors spend their time and how you can reach them
• Enable your fundraising and marketing teams to create consistent messages for their audiences

Using donor personas, you’ll be able to identify and engage different audiences more effectively. They will inform your fundraising and marketing outreach so you can deliver content that resonates with donors, setting you up to boost donations and grow your overall donor base.

How to Find the Candidates for Your Donor Personas

In order to create these personas, your first step is to reach out to your existing donor base and learn more about who they are. Your constituent relationship management (CRM) system and event registration signups can uncover basic facts about your donor base, but you can gain a deeper understanding of your audience by interviewing them directly.

Because different people have different connections to your organization, it’s important to reach out to various types of supporters. Each group has different goals, behaviors, and reasons for giving. Understanding their distinct motivations will help you draw in more of each audience.

Reach out to the following groups of supporters:

1. One-time donors – These donors have given once or twice to your organization. Find out how they learned about your organization and why decided to donate. Did they give just to support a friend or family member’s personal fundraising page? Do they have a personal passion for the cause? Do they support other organizations, and why? Understanding what interests donors about your nonprofit will help you acquire new ones in the future.

2. Monthly recurring donors – These donors are some of your most loyal supporters. As you learn about their reasons for giving, determine what inspired them to opt into your recurring giving program. This interaction can help you uncover strategies to convert more supporters into monthly donors, as well as steward current ones to deepen their support for your cause.

3. Large donors – After identifying what level of support defines a “large” donor to your organization, reach out to some of these supporters and learn more about who they are. Also, learn about their personal histories with your organization: what connects them to your cause? What campaigns do they support? What sustains and deepens their relationship to your nonprofit?

4. VolunteersVolunteers donate their time and services, making them a vital resource for your nonprofit. In fact, one hour of volunteer service is worth an estimated $22.55. Learn more about this valuable group and why they choose to volunteer. You might also discover what could motivate them to donate money in the future.

5. Blog/newsletter subscribers – While they may not have donated just yet, these people are interested enough in your organization to stay updated on your activities and impact. By understanding how they found your organization and what kinds of content resonate with them, you can strategize how to drive more people your website and increase their support for your cause.

Surveys are a great way to quickly reach out to a list of contacts, but in order to garner more details you should conduct some interviews. Email a few people from each supporter group asking if they’d be willing to share their input, then conduct 3 to 5 interviews with each segment of supporters. With just a few conversations, you’ll start to recognize behavioral patterns among the different groups, which you can then use to piece together your donor personas.

Donor Persona Image

Get Started on Your Donor Personas

Interviewing your current donor base is the first step to developing your personas. These individuals have already chosen to support your organization, so they can shed a lot of insight into what motivates your target audiences to donate. Once you create a list of potential interviewees, your next step is to come up with questions that will capture a holistic image of your supporters. Then you’ll eventually pull your data together to create your donor personas.

To dive deeper into how to conduct research, come up with questions, and fully develop these personas for your organization, check out the free Know Your Donors Field Guide—complete with worksheets and a customizable donor persona template.

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