If you’ve ever taken a webinar I’ve taught or participated in The Storytelling Non-Profit Master Class, chances are you have heard me say, “You MUST know who you are telling stories to.”
The foundation of a great story starts with knowing the audience. That’s because when we tell stories in fundraising or communications materials, we are not telling a story just for the sake of telling a story. We are telling a story in order to achieve a certain goal. That goal could be to raise a certain amount of money, for example The point is that using a story is a strategic decision and you want to be able to leverage that story. In order to do that, you have to know who you are telling that story to.
The reality is that knowing who you’re talking to – in telling stories, in fundraising and in communications – is one of the key factors in your organization’s success.
Time and time again, fundraisers and communicators ask me how they can get to know their audience better and what to do with that information. Today, I’m going to give you a few pointers for this process as well a resource (at the bottom of the post) that will help you really hone in on your audience.
Step 1: Audience Discovery
Sometimes we make a lot of assumptions about who our audience is. Mostly, we assume that they are like us and that is not always the case. I also often see organizations too broadly define their audience (by saying that their audience is “donos”), which is also not helpful. It is important to go through a discovery process to get to know your real audience.
How do you do this?
You can start with the data that you have from things like past audience surveys, Google Analytics, and information in your database. Between various pieces like this, you can make a number of inferences about your audience.
But at some point, you’re going to need to talk to people. Make some phone calls. Hold a few interviews with key stakeholders. These one-on-one conversations are where the gems are. You’ll hear exactly how your constituents self-identify, what nuanced language they use to talk about the cause and (most importantly) why they like your organization’s work.
Step 2: Create Your Audience Profile
Once you’ve done some discovery and have collected enough data points, you’ll start to see to start to see some trends in your audience. You’ll notice that not everyone is identical, but they have data points in common. Those common data points are what you want to focus on. Those are the details about your target audience that will be useful as you make strategic decisions about fundraising and communications materials.
What’s even more useful is to create an audience profile with this information. Your audience persona is a mock-up of a fictional audience member. You give them a name, picture, life story, demographic details (from your research), etc. The goal of creating this composite is to have a really clear picture of who you’re talking to.
Scroll down t0 the bottom of the post for a free worksheet that you can download and use to create your audience profile!
Step 3: Use Your Profile as a Filter
After creating an audience profile, you’ll use it as a filter for decisions you make in your fundraising or communications program.
Every time you create a donor communications piece or a fundraising appeal ask yourself – would this resonate with my target audience? Based on the information that you have collected, you should have a good indication as to whether or not you are on the right track.
To give you an example of a communications piece that has a clearly defined target audience, check out this video from the Rainforest Alliance.
Can you guess who their target audience? This video is at the top of my list for great communications that speak to a narrowly defined target audience and gets results.
To help you out with your audience profile efforts, I’ve created an Audience Profile Worksheet.
Download the worksheet and fill it out to create your audience profile.
Do you have questions about creating an audience profile for your non-profit? Leave a comment below and let us know what your biggest challenge is!