Donor Persona: Fiction That’s True
By Ben Keating, Project Manager
What truly motivates your donors to give to your ministry? Discovering the truth — grasping it fully and applying it — can powerfully improve your fundraising outcomes.
One powerful tool to accomplishing these goals: “donor personas.”
A donor persona is a fictional profile of a hypothetical donor — but based entirely on real data. It’s like painting a detailed picture of an imaginary donor on your file. Invest in creating and understanding donor personas, and your ministry can foster deeper connections with your real donors, encourage more donations, and build longer-lasting relationships in your ministry family.
What do you know?
Donors don’t automatically like what you like or want what you want. Figure out what interests a donor, what motivates a donor, what preferences a donor lives by, and you can craft a stream of communications that:
- deepens trust,
- increases a feeling of being valued,
- connects a donor’s heart even more warmly to your cause,
- turns a donor into an essential partner, not just a financial contributor, and
- intensifies the donor’s commitment, ensuring their continuing support.
Bottom line: Understanding your donors’ drives and passions can significantly amplify your fundraising results. Align your campaigns with your donors’ core values and you’ll tap into the primary reasons people are moved to donate.
Besides giving more, donors will be more likely to champion your cause in their circle of influence. They’ll be more inclined to introduce friends and family to your ministry, broadening your impact as you attract new supporters. Truly knowing your donors isn’t just considerate — it’s smart strategy.
Key Elements of a Donor Persona
Simply put, demographics give a broad view of “who” your donors might be, while personas offer a more profound insight into “why” they support and “how” they wish to be engaged.
You probably already know demographic details like a donor’s gender, age, and location, maybe even their income level. But developing a donor persona means shedding light on behavioral tendencies (how often they donate, and their preferred communication methods), psychographic data (their values or interests), and even potential challenges that might hinder their support.
Knowing these nuances, you can tailor your strategies to more deeply resonate with your donors, enhancing their engagement and increasing their contributions.
5 Steps to Developing a Donor Persona
Here’s how you can create a detailed, fictional representation of your ideal supporter, built from real data and insights — and if you need help doing it, BBS is here for you!
1. Start with research
Dive into your existing donor database. Conduct surveys and interviews. Ask questions about their motivations, how they engage with your organization, and their giving patterns. Conduct a wealth screening. These direct insights, coupled with a thorough analysis of donation histories and event participation patterns, will provide both a quantitative and qualitative foundation.
2. Segmentation is key
With this rich data in hand, segment your donors. Group them by different criteria like their giving levels, age, interests, location, or any other defining attributes. This segmentation will help reveal commonalities and highlight differences in your donor base.
3. Spot the common traits and behaviors
Sift through each segment and identify overarching patterns. How do these donors prefer to engage with your organization? Is it through email, attending events, or engaging on social media? Alongside these preferences, determine the core motivations behind their donations. Understanding why they give is as crucial as knowing how they give.
4. Craft the profile
With these insights, begin crafting your donor personas. Create a narrative for each type of donor, giving them a background that encapsulates their motivations, fears, and aspirations. And to make them more tangible, provide a visual representation and a name. It’s not about stereotyping, but about understanding shared characteristics that can guide your strategies.
5. Use feedback to refine your personas
These profiles aren’t set in stone. Share them with your team and key stakeholders, gathering feedback. Use these personas in your strategies, and be open to evolving them based on new insights or shifts in your donor community.
Sample Donor Persona
Here’s a practical example of a donor persona: “Digital Danny,” associated with a hypothetical ministry, “Hope Now.” Let’s get acquainted with Danny!
Based in Kansas City, Digital Danny is a tech enthusiast who seamlessly merges his love for the digital realm with his passion for supporting faith-based causes. As a modern donor, he represents the synergy of technology and spirituality in today’s nonprofit landscape.
- Age: 29
- Occupation: Digital Marketing Specialist
- Location: Kansas City, Missouri
- Marital Status: Single, resides in an urban apartment, and shares his space with a pet dog named Miso
Demographics & Interests:
- Income Level: $70,000 annually
- Education: Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Media
- Regularly attends church and participates in community outreach programs
- Active user of social media platforms, especially Instagram and Twitter, where he follows various faith-based influencers
- Avid podcast listener, especially to faith-focused and inspirational content
- Enjoys outdoor activities like hiking and attending spiritual retreats on weekends
Donation History with Hope Now:
- Discovered Hope Now through a faith-based online campaign via email
- Has been a monthly donor for the past year, contributing $20/month through an automated online payment system
- Attended a virtual prayer and fundraising event hosted by Hope Now last summer
- Prefers digital communication: Email newsletters, social media updates, and spiritual webinars
- Appreciative of mobile-friendly and visually appealing content with spiritual undertones (scripture-infused infographics, short inspirational videos)
- Shows enthusiasm for peer-to-peer fundraising initiatives within his faith community
- Deeply values transparency and spiritual alignment in causes he supports
- Motivated by tangible impacts that resonate with his faith and spiritual values
- Trusts organizations that bridge technology and faith in their operations and outreach
Barriers to Donating:
- Can be discouraged by overly aggressive or non-spiritually aligned communications
- A lack of clear connection between donations and faith-driven impacts can deter his continued support
Goals & Aspirations:
- Hopes to see Hope Now interweave more faith-based narratives into their digital campaigns
- Interested in opportunities to volunteer for spiritual or faith-centric digital campaigns
Digital Danny merges his tech-savviness with deep spiritual convictions. For organizations like Hope Now, engaging Danny means crafting spiritually resonant digital content and ensuring their causes align with faith-based values. Recognizing and aligning with Danny’s faith and digital preferences can pave the way for a fruitful, enduring relationship.
Understanding and creating donor personas is crucial for effective fundraising, but it’s not always a straightforward process. Our BBS team is ready to help you get started and offer guidance along the way.
Let’s collaborate to make sure your ministry resonates deeply with your supporters. Reach out today, and we’ll see how we can enhance your engagement strategy together. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you!