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Personas are data-driven, but fictionalized, representations of your supporters. They describe the demographics of your core supporter segments. But personas can also describe your supporters’ motivations, channel preferences, and even personal details like hobbies. All this information can give you a more complete picture of your donors beyond just the dollar amount they gave.

Developing Personas

Building personas allows you to develop an understanding of your core supporter segments and engage with them in a more personal way, re-creating many of the benefits of one-on-one communication while still allowing you to efficiently communicate across your donor file. Tipping Point: Aligning with Supporters in a Changing World highlighted that a majority of donors responding to be fine with personalized content, and most younger donors preferring it, further proving that personalization communication should make its way into your persona building. Nonprofits interact with a variety of groups – annual fund donors, foundations, corporations, volunteers, practitioners, program recipients, journalists, major donors – and each group has a set of unique characteristics.

Personas allow you to more effectively segment the highest-impact supporters who need your team’s individualized time and attention the most. With this information, you can gain a deeper understanding of your supporters and incorporate it into everything you do, from the donation appeals you write to the ways you share donation receipts and the very channels you use to engage constituents.



Personas are comprised of a variety of indicators, including demographic and inclination information, which show a supporter’s inclination to donate. Demographic indicators include age, generation, household type, gender, ethnicity, education, and financial capacity. They are often used in tandem with a wealth screening to determine giving capacity. When taking a personas-based approach, you’ll want to move beyond an understanding of capacity and look at how you can use all the data you’ve amassed to give a full picture of your supporters. To identify inclination to give, consider questions like:

  • What parts of your organization does a supporter engage with?
  • Do they volunteer for a specific program?
  • Do they attend a certain event year after year?
  • Do they follow you on social media?
  • What are their personal hobbies?

To keep learning about these inclination indicators and more, check out these resources:


Persona Modeling

To develop the strongest personas that will create meaningful results for your organization, you have to move beyond assumptions and build truly data-driven persona models that show both capacity and inclination. In-house data scientists or partners with data expertise can assist in creating strong persona models.

It can be fairly straightforward to assess, for example, which ZIP code produces the highest average gift or which major giver has the highest giving response rate at your organization. However, you ideally have a combination of demographic and inclination data points to analyze within your database. Persona modeling enables you to let the statistics take care of the details and simplifies your work by condensing your donor file into distinct personas.



To make the best use of your personas, you should develop a persona-driven segmentation program. Segmentation is the process of grouping constituents based on common characteristics—in this case, by their persona. We are breaking the audience and database into manageable groups for the purpose of communicating with them.

Successful fundraising depends on customizing your communications and stewardship to specific donors. By consistently grouping constituents based on persona, you can easily target a specific group with tailored messaging and asks. As fundraisers, we are in the business of building relationships, and knowing who we are talking to helps us to tailor our messages and ultimately communicate in a more meaningful manner. Segmentation efficiently individualizes communication to reach your constituents at their own stage in the supporter journey. To develop the most efficient message, it’s important to engage with your donors in the form of communication they prefer. Data in Tipping Point: Aligning with Supporters in a Changing World shows younger donors prefer a personalized and multichannel approach. Having personalized outreach will more likely produce better results.