How to create user personas

Have you ever thought about why some of your fundraising campaigns did not achieve their goals – while other campaigns were very effective? The reason is that some adverts have been specifically targeted at your audience while others are not. When you learn how to create user personas, it can help bridge the gap when developing a customised marketing strategy for a target audience you don’t know individually.

In this post, we’ll show you how to create user personas for NGOs that will help you understand your target audience better. 

1. What Is a User Persona?

A user persona is a semi-fictional representation of ideal customers for your organisation. They are developed using a combination of market research and existing customers. It will include information about demographic traits and what matters to them the most. The more details you know about your audience, your nonprofit marketing results are more effective. In the rest of the article, you will learn about the types of user persona required for your nonprofit marketing strategy.  

2. Why Do NGOs Need to Know How to Create User Personas?

User personas are incredibly useful as they help you understand the needs of your target audience. Whether it’s for a fundraising campaign or a brand awareness program, you need to know how to create user personas that are specifically tailored based on your marketing goals to get the desired results. It helps you personalise specific content for your audience, eventually resulting in more actions like – signing a petition, donating, or supporting a cause.   

3. Who Is the Target Market for Nonprofit Organisations? 

Nonprofit Organisations

3.1 Donors

Donors are essential to target audiences for nonprofits that provide donations to your organisation and support the goals. There are different types of donors, such as – individual donors, major donors, foundations, and corporate donors. It is crucial to find donors whose interest matches your organisational goals. 

3.2 Volunteers

Volunteers are those who wish to support your organisation. It is the hard work of volunteers that is behind the success of various fundraising campaigns and other events. They are tremendous resources for nonprofits and charitable organisations, as their work helps raise funds or serve clients. For instance, millennial volunteers on social media can be potential word-of-mouth advocates to promote your brand and help drive more funds. 

3.3 Sponsors

Corporate sponsors often support various causes like child labour, women’s empowerment, saving the environment, and more. Corporate sponsors support nonprofits by donating money, providing volunteers, promoting a cause, and more. Additionally, they provide goods, services, and money in exchange for promotional benefits and brand reputation.  

4. How to Create User Personas for an NGO? 

4.1 Research Your Ideal Donors

According to a survey, 80% of nonprofits’ revenue comes from 20% of donors. To get more donors, you must conduct in-depth research and look for high-potential donors who may be significant contributors to your cause. The goal of your study is to identify potential donors who have both affinity and capacity. In this regard, wealth screening is a primary factor that helps you evaluate existing donors. 

To conduct research successfully, you need the right tools to analyse the information. Some popular tools are – internal donor records, google, Wikipedia, classified sites, directories, prospect generator tools, matching gift databases, and social media platforms.

4.2 Use Surveys for Data Collection

You need adequate data on your target audience. You can collect some by conducting surveys, questionnaires, polls, and quizzes. Some popular tools to conduct surveys are – SurveyMonkey, SurveySparrow, Qualtrics, and Mopinion. Alternatively, you can mail a simple question to your segmented list and follow up with content specifically targeted for them. 

Surveys provide more qualitative data about what they are interested in versus what your organisation offers. Many times, organisations have some idea of what their audience wants. However, surveys and interviews help you know what they feel about your organisation. 

4.3 Include Basic Demographics

Understand the characteristics of current supporters and make a list of qualities you would like to see in your ideal audience. Segment them into groups based on their demographics and interests. You can break them down into groups: retirees, self-employed, recent graduates, professionals, and so on. 

Then create nonprofit audience personas for each group. Remember that you must treat them like real people interested in your organisation.  For instance, John is a 21-year-old pursuing graduation and looking for a source of income – you can send him volunteer messages. 

4.4 Understand Their Motivation

To get a clearer picture, you need to analyse their behaviour and interest in depth to gain traction in a highly competitive sphere. You need to understand your organisational goals match the interest of your audience. At this stage, you can ask a few questions, such as – 

  • What stops the donors from donating?
  • Are you targeting the right group?
  • Is your message conveyed clearly?
  • What should be your call to action?

4.5 Create Scenarios

User personas for nonprofits will become valuable only when they are linked with a scenario. By creating scenarios, you are painting a picture of a set of events that help your team understand the practical need and behaviour of users. Imagine a situation that describes how your persona would interact with an event or campaign. Make sure to create a scenario from the persona’s perspective and articulate the possible cases that will likely happen. When your team creates and uses these scenarios, it gives the user an environment and face. 

Once you have gathered all the information, you can use characteristics to identify nonprofit audience personas. For instance, based on their characteristics – you can name them Volunteer Steve, Donation David, and so on. 

4.6 Share Findings with the Team

By sharing the findings with your staff and volunteers, they develop a better understanding of the target audience. As your team becomes familiar with different user personas, they will start interacting and creating real-life scenarios based on these. 

Encourage your team to keep the user personas handy, especially when running promotional campaigns or content. Teach them how the personas can play an essential role in your marketing activities.  

5. Nonprofit Personas Example

Nonprofit Personas Example

Let’s say, you are a charity organisation that aims to provide internship or volunteering opportunities to graduates to help them add new skills to their CVs. You want to run a campaign targeting graduates who wish to learn new skills. Below is how to create a user persona –

  • Persona – Recent Graduate
  • Name – John
  • Age – 20 years
  • Gender – Male
  • Occupation – Unemployed
  • Income Status – None
  • Location – Sydney

What are the challenges faced by John?

Although there are many nonprofits in Sydney that John could apply to learn new skills, he would apply if he knew there was a requirement. Then, he would search online and find sites that give him all the required information and show relevant opportunities. 

What are the goals of John?

The main aim of John is to work for a secured job in a top MNC. However, he wants to create a portfolio beyond his academic qualifications to stand out in this competitive space. So, he is looking for opportunities in Sydney to help him add new skills to his portfolio. 

What are John’s interests?

John loves to travel in his free time. He is also a fan of Marvel stories. Remember that you can find this information in his social media profile. 

What is his behaviour type?

Easily distracted, frequently checks social media, prefers to rent movies, and is an early adopter of technology.

What are his frustrations?

Social injustice, classic advertising, inauthenticity

Based on the above, you can create different user personas for John, such as – student, graduate, or job seeker.  

Now, the question is – how to target John?

To target John, you must first know if the website has all the required information John is seeking for. Here are a few considerations – 

  • Is the website form optimised for the user?
  • How to improve the SEO of the website?
  • Is the landing page content targeted?

To target this persona, you can publish informative and engaging articles on your website that help answer John’s queries. Also, you can share relevant posts on special media by using hashtags that target John. 


  • How Do I Set up a Donor Persona?

For creating donor personas, you must have an in-depth understanding of your target audience, their demographics, interests, age, gender, and location. 

  • How Can I Promote My NGO?

Some of the best ways to promote your NGO are social media marketing, referral marketing, influencer marketing, and SEO.

  • How Much Should a Nonprofit Spend on Marketing?

As a general rule, your nonprofit marketing can be roughly between 5-15% of your operational budget.

7. Resources You Will Love

8. About Growth Ganik

Growth Ganik is a rapidly evolving digital marketing agency in Sydney, Australia, specialising in SEO, content marketing, marketing strategy, and lead generation.

We work with clients from leading brands and industries such as B2B SaaS, nonprofits, and more to develop profitable digital marketing solutions that are data-driven to support all kinds of business goals – from widening user bases and gaining more traction for online engagement to increasing conversion and helping businesses scale up. 

For creative tailor-made digital solutions and sustainable growth insights, get in touch with us! 

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