Donor Personas: Lessons From Nike And The For-Profit World

Images and videos of burning shoes and socks with holes in the shape of Nike’s iconic “swoosh” logo flooded social media in response to the brand taking a bold stance on a controversial issue. The brand’s decision to feature Colin Kaepernick — who is attributed with starting the growing movement of NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem — during its 30th anniversary campaign was met with social media uproar.Threads of posts saturated the Internet with dissenting calls to #BoycottNike and the argument that “Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.” It even gained the attention of the President of the United States.

It was a calculated risk for Nike, as the NFL’s exclusive uniform provider, to feature such a controversial figure in its campaign. Many doubted the brand’s ability to make it out of the fire, but Nike was able to take a stand on a highly polarizing issue and survive the heat because of its deep understanding of its audience — as well as their core values and beliefs.

Developing research-driven personas — fictionalized representations of real-life customers and supporters — provides an opportunity to communicate with audience segments in a highly personalized way, based on their beliefs and aspirations. Customer personas are common in the for-profit world. Based on data and research, personas help companies solve challenges about marketing content, products and services to their ideal audience. But do these tools have a place in the social sector? Absolutely.

Branding and Messaging That Resonates

Donor personas are one of the most important elements in any organization’s mission to drive action. This begins with empathetic research, focusing on comprehending the dreams, passions and worldview of your target community. With this understanding, your organization can craft brand experiences, social interactions and messages that make information more compelling — driving a deeper connection between supporters and the organization’s mission.

The decision to use Colin Kaepernick in Nike’s campaign ad reflects the very core of its brand, which is rooted in empowerment. No matter what audience persona Nike is speaking to, its tagline, “Just Do It,” applies. Because of Nike’s long history of empowerment through its brand, the messaging resonated with its audiences.

Your organization relies on its supporters and understands how important it is for them to connect deeply with your brand and mission. The core of your organization reflects its meaning and aspirations, while fulfilling the passions of your target audience.

Getting people to care enough about your cause to take action means stepping into your audience’s shoes. It is not enough to create messages that you think will resonate with the community you are trying to reach. Effectively reaching your target audience and convincing them to act in support of your cause requires a deeper understanding of who they are, ensuring mission alignment that propels action.

Effectively Reaching Your Audience

Technological advances have created instant access to information, altering the way individuals connect with your organization. Today, communicating with your audience has to mean more than projecting your message to various audiences and hoping it’ll stick. Connecting emotionally with your audience requires meeting them where they are and strategically getting your information in front of them based on their already existing worldview.

Beyond its overall branding, Nike’s high-profile packed campaign ads have become a favorite amongst consumers. Choosing to air its campaign during the NFL season opener was guaranteed engagement for Nike, and while it sparked additional controversy, its message was clear and effectively received. In addition, the video skyrocketed Nike’s exposure on social media, boosted overall sales and even brought the brand’s shares to an all-time high.

Through persona development and mapping, you’ll gain a clear understanding of how and where your personas prefer to communicate, while connecting deeply and meaningfully with each one of them.

Developing Donor Personas

Thorough donor personas give your organization the blueprint to strategically develop branding and messaging while effectively reaching the audience it seeks to connect with. With empathetic research, your organization can develop donor personas that are guaranteed to guide the creation of stronger connections with its supporters. Knowing the hopes, dreams and ambitions of your target audience allows you to develop branding and messaging that aligns with their values and passions.

Building personas in the digital world is made simpler with new, easy-to-use and integrated technologies that collect valuable data about your organization’s current and prospective donors. As these systems capture details such as where people are navigating on your site, along with their interests and passions, you’re able to use that information to morph a large number of disparate donor personalities into broader personas.

Personas are the beacon, the guiding light, for effectively reaching and connecting with your target audiences. You can read more on the power of personas and how to develop them here.

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