Digital Moves Management 101: Creating and Understanding Donor Personas

Successful fundraising professionals know that your process doesn’t begin by simply blasting a random message to everyone in your database. There are many nuanced steps that help you understand your donors and their motivations, which allows you to effectively connect with various audience segments and personas. Building donor personas is a multi-dimensional task that involves weighing a variety of different data points far beyond age and other high-level demographics. Connecting with your donors must happen at a deeper and more meaningful level in order to properly implement digital moves management and encourage your sporadic donors to become passionate supporters of your cause.

Creating Detailed Personas
Getting to know your audience may start as a casual conversation in the real world, where you’re gathering tidbits of information and storing them away mentally for future use. This same paradigm applies to building personas in the digital world. As you capture details such as where people are navigating on your site, along with their age, ethnicity, interests and passions, you’re able to use that information to morph a large number of disparate donor personalities into broader personas. A persona is a fictionalized representation of real life donors, essentially allowing you to communicate with a group of individuals in a highly personalized way based on their beliefs and aspirations. Think about your very best donors, and the attributes that these individuals possess. Are there more of this type of individuals, or are they found more as a one-off? You’ll start by creating a detailed and specific list of your various audiences, which could and should include any information that you’ve been able to capture digitally as well as including tidbits from conversations. Your new best friends in the communications department will be able to share their knowledge about what type of emails these people react to, and their preferred giving method, while donor management leaders can provide their potential for giving and more.

Filling in the Gaps
As you wade through the information that you have available, you may become overwhelmed and wonder where to begin. This is perfectly normal! Don’t allow the research to intimidate you, simply keep looking for commonalities among your various audiences. A great way to start this type of project is to collaborate with your colleagues in communications, as they can share detailed demographics learned through their various activities. This doesn’t necessarily mean things like age, political leanings or even gender, although these items may play a part in helping build your personas. Look across what you may think of as traditional lines for demographics and find commonalities that aren’t as common. Perhaps you are raising funds for a military family, and see that one key audience segment has their insurance through USAA or receives the USAA magazine. These individuals are more likely to be passionate supporters of military-related causes, and when you combine this knowledge with their ability to give and other critical details, you’ll be well on your way to building your first persona. Continue filling in any gaps in the research and data that you have available through qualitative and quantitative means alike.

Drawing the Picture
An important part of creating personas is making them as lifelike as possible. You want to be able to craft a persona as a human individual with whom you could have a one-on-one conversation. Someone that you could inspire digitally the same way you’re able to light up their passion when you have a conversation in person. Your persona should include this or similar information:

  • Picture and Name: Select a picture for each persona, and give them a name that is evocative of their personality and background.
  • Identity: Define age, marital status, ethnicity, level of education and even their job title. Consider political leanings, media engagement, life status, geographic location, influencer status, ability and inclination to give and more.
  • A Day in the Life: Put yourself in the mind of your individual. How do they spend their day? Working? What are their responsibilities?
  • Biggest Challenge: What keeps your target individual up at night? What are some key pain points or concerns?
  • Motivation: Here’s where you describe the ‘Why’: Why do they get up in the morning? What are their hopes, dreams and fears? What does success look like? What will change if they are successful?

A key benefit of personas is that they allow development and communications teams to connect around messaging points and a deeper understanding of various audience segments.

Moving to Understanding
Once you’ve created and validated your personas, you’re ready to move on to the next stage of digital moves management: using content to connect with your personas at a deeper level. Many donor communication emails are relatively safe, in that they don’t seek to deepen the conversation. They may ask for money, time or for the recipient to use their influence on behalf of the entity. While it’s possible that you may see some ROI from a well-crafted message, ultimately moving people along the path to become passionate supporters of your cause requires a better understanding of your audience’s motivation and deeper needs.

Connecting the Dots
Forming a profound relationship with the individuals in each of your persona groups means converting content into engagement — a four-step process that can’t be circumvented. In order to engage at this level, you’ll need to:

  1. Form empathy with your personas
  2. Understand the content assets that already exist in your organization
  3. Do the work of matching your available content to personas
  4. Repurpose content in a way that resonates with the personas’ needs, aspirations and belief systems

Many organizations fall into the trap of feeling that they need to continually create new content. While new content is great, evergreen or reusable content is a gold mine. White papers that were created for large donors or annual reports can be broken down and used to create webinars to engage and inform. Brief stories and snippets of inspiration can become memes to be shared, and videos of events can become the backdrop for powerful and moving storytelling that flows across mediums. Each piece of content that you curate helps build towards a holistic communication strategy that is designed to move a specific persona from casual giver to passionate and engaged supporter of your cause. Knowing their hopes, dreams and ambitions allows you to tailor the content more effectively for each stage of your digital moves management strategy.

Personas are the beacon, the guiding light, for content development and communication between donor management and communications professionals. The information and conversations captured by those who know the donors best helps steer content development and distribution in the future. This ongoing partnership throughout the organization allows everyone to focus their efforts in a way that builds towards success: improved giving and more passionate, committed and engaged donors.

Want to learn more about leveraging the technology you’ll need to corral your content, manage your data for user personas and automate your moves management process? Schedule a no-obligation 30-minute consultation with us. You can also visit our Inspirations page to download free resources to help you begin your journey.

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