Hitting the Bullseye: Identifying Your Nonprofit's Target Audience

How to create audience personas for each audience segment

Imagine this – you’re planning your nonprofit’s next campaign and determining what message to use in your video to elicit a response from your audience. You’re throwing around different ideas with your team, thinking of creative messaging styles – do we want a positive tone here or a little more negative? Do we want to motivate our audience or stoke some FOMO to encourage action?


Without knowing who it is you’re speaking to, all you’re doing is playing a guessing game. Identifying your target audience, ideally with an audience persona, is integral to crafting your messaging so your audience resonates with your stories.



Portrait of Mark Locki

Article by Mark Locki

Picture it like practicing archery – if you don’t know who you want to attract with your messaging, you might as well be drawing your bowstring back and releasing with your eyes closed. But when you open your eyes, visualize hitting the target, and allow your experience to guide you, you’re far more likely to hit the bullseye.


In this article, we’ll unravel the mysteries of audience identification and guide you on using audience personas effectively.

Download your free Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Audience Persona for your Nonprofit

Get your free guide here

Why Identifying Your Target Audience Matters:


Every nonprofit should have a minimum of 3 of the following audience segments.  It’s also possible to subdivide the segments further, but as a starting point, you should include:

  1.   Donors – The Backbone of Your Cause: Donors are the lifeblood of many nonprofit organizations. Imagine conducting a fundraising campaign without knowing who resonates with your cause. Identifying your target donors means understanding their motivations, capacity to give, and where they congregate. For instance, if you’re in environmental conservation, your target donor might be a forward-thinking environmentalist who values innovation.
  2.   Supporters – Your Advocates: Supporters are the advocates who amplify your message. These could be individuals, local businesses, or influential figures who share your passion. Knowing their interests, demographics, and preferred communication channels is crucial. If you’re promoting arts education, your target supporter might be a local business owner with a strong affinity for the arts.
  3.   Volunteers – The Heart of Your Operations: Volunteers are the backbone of your organization’s operations. It is paramount to identify those who are genuinely passionate about your cause and willing to contribute their time and skills. If you operate a food bank, your ideal volunteers might be community-oriented individuals looking to make a tangible difference.
  4.   Members – Your Community Builders: Nonprofits with membership structures must identify those who would benefit most from joining their community. For instance, if you’re a fitness-focused nonprofit, your target members might be health-conscious individuals seeking a supportive fitness community.
  5.   Beneficiaries – Who Are You Helping? Every nonprofit exists to serve a specific group or cause. Understanding your beneficiaries thoroughly is fundamental. For example, if your mission is to assist underprivileged youth, you need an in-depth understanding of their needs, aspirations, and challenges.

You will find the most success with your campaigns when your messaging and target audience are aligned. Your Call to Action is a perfect example of this. 

Asking someone from your donor segmentation list for a donation will be more successful than asking your beneficiaries for donations.

Crafting Audience Personas - Your North Star:

Now that we’ve established why identifying your target audience is crucial let’s delve into the creation of audience personas. Think of these personas as your guiding stars, directing your marketing efforts with precision.


·      Donor Diana: Diana is an environmentally conscious tech enthusiast with financial capacity and a penchant for sustainable practices.


·      Supporter Sam: Sam is a local art supply shop owner deeply committed to supporting arts education in the community.


·      Volunteer Victor: Victor is a retired teacher seeking to give back by helping at the local food bank.


·      Member Michelle: Michelle is a fitness enthusiast looking for a welcoming community to support her health journey.


·      Beneficiary Benny: Benny is a determined, underprivileged youth with dreams of a brighter future.

Donor Diana - our environmentalist donor

To craft the strongest audience personas possible, you should conisder demographics, psychographics, and habits to build a complete picture.

For a step-by-step guide to creating your audience persona, download our free guide here!

Download Your Guide Here

BONUS: Think outside the box when contemplating your target audiences in your campaigns!


This campaign from the Jewish Council for Education and Research highlights how creative you can get with your target audience.

In the US 2008 presidential election, the Council knew the key to Obama winning lay in Florida with elderly Jewish voters. With many reluctant to vote for a black man as president, the Council knew they had to think differently to get them to listen. So, they enlisted their grandchildren and created one of the most impactful campaigns to date, The Great Schlep.  


Identifying your target audience and creating audience personas are not optional in the nonprofit world; they are prerequisites for success. It ensures that your messages reach the right people who can contribute significantly to your mission.


In nonprofit marketing, precision is key, and knowing your audience is the compass guiding your efforts. So, aim deliberately, hit the bullseye, and watch your nonprofit thrive.


Let me know in the comments section below!

If you enjoyed this post and know someone who could benefit from reading it, I would be honoured if you shared it with them!