Face it … not everyone cares about your cause — and there’s not much you can do about it.
"There are always going to be people that are more interested in shoe shopping than what you have to say," says Kivi Leroux Miller.
The president of EcoScribe Communications and keeper of NonprofitMarketingGuide.com addressed the importance of honing in on the appropriate audience for your messaging in the April webinar, "Forget the General Public! How to Define Your Audience."
"You've got to get beyond this idea that you're just doing general outreach or awareness raising," Miller said. "It's a waste of money. Focus on your target audience, the people in the crowd who really are interested in what you have to say."
Look at your target audience, ideal supporters, likely clients, people you want to reach and groups most likely to need you, and determine the common elements that tie them all together. By focusing on people who are really interested in your cause, it will be much easier to make decisions about language, imagery and format, she said.
At a minimum, most nonprofits have two audiences: clients and donors. But most have multiple audiences, some of which include funders, volunteers, advocates, decision makers, policy makers and the media.
Miller told attendees to focus on specific groups, as behaviors by a lot of "individuals within a group are what bring about real change."
To determine what sets one group apart from another, Miller recommended organizations work to understand and visualize the different personas that make up its typical supporter groups and ideal members it wants to add going forward.
To help visualize personas, think about shared characteristics. Some of the characteristics that can be used to group people together are:
- Demographics — gender, age, ethnicity, income, education, hobbies, employment, family status, affiliations, religion, ownership (home, etc.), location, likes/dislikes
- Behaviors — What do they do now? What don't they do? Are they doing the right thing — i.e., the behavior you want them to follow through on — but not regularly or in the right place?
- Stages of change — Miller listed these stages as precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance and relapse prevention.
Groups who typically volunteer and donate can be broken into four categories:
- Retired, but still active
- Those who are building their resumes
- Those giving back
- Those who want to save the world
Create personas for each of these four groups based on data that you have about your target audience following these steps:
1. Give personas names and characteristics, for example:
- Group 1: Anna — retired woman who cares for her ailing husband and is comfortably middle class
- Group 2: Jessica — a single mom who wants to build her resume and get a job where she makes more money
- Group 3: John — a Harvard MBA; upper middle class; children in Ivy League. Wants to give back
- Group 4: Maria — a teen who wants to save the world
Think about each persona and determine what they value. Some examples of values Miller shared with attendees are time, sleep, convenience, adventure, public recognition, good karma, control, love, status, power, fitting in, change, self-help, competition, action, formality, openness, pragmatism, cooperation, idealism, safety, money, efficiency, challenge, privacy, connecting, independence and teamwork.
Convert the features of what your organization is trying to do into benefits for each persona. Ask yourself, "Given everything we know about them, what aspects and benefits of our ‘product' will appeal to them most?," Miller said. "Translate values into imagery and taglines that are going to appeal to the individuals in those groups."
Miller used as an example the old-school anti-smoking efforts targeted at teens to show a values mismatch. Those efforts focused on the message that smokers die younger and smoking hurts people around you, but Miller says they were ineffective partly because, to many teens, dying young is cool and most didn't really care that they were affecting those around them.
A value match is the TRUTH campaign, which accuses adults and those in positions of authority (i.e., big tobacco companies) of being evil people who want to manipulate teens into smoking. The campaign is much more effective, as teens are generally skeptical of authority.
Miller says it's up to each organization to figure out what its audience values and reinforce those values. Can your organization get them closer to something they value? Or are you blocking them from feeling these different values?
2. Add values to basic demographics.
- Group 1: Anna — takes care of husband, so she'll value predictability, time and recognition
- Group 2: Jessica — a single mom, so money is important. Wants to build up her own resume, so self-help is important. But she's busy, so convenience is important
- Group 3: John — baby boomer. Efficiency is important, as is control. He's a business man used to doing things his way
- Group 4: Maria — an idealistic teen concerned about fitting in and having fun
3. Match your volunteering message to the values of each persona.
- For Anna, the focus should be on specific, recurring tasks that can be accomplished in a set amount of time. And send her personal thank-you notes.
- For Jessica, focus on tasks that let her polish her skills. Flexible weekend and evening hours, with child care or activities available.
- For John, messaging should focus on the fact that he can tailor his volunteer experience to his talents and can give back and get results.
- For Maria, give her opportunities to volunteer with friends, let her know there's a Facebook group of younger volunteers, and there are social events before or after volunteering.
"They may be all doing the exact same thing when they come into volunteer," Miller said. "But we're going to talk to them differently about them."
4. For donation asks, match your message to values.
- For Anna, the focus of the ask should be on leaving a legacy (planned giving); naming opportunities; and PR.
- For Jessica, focus on monthly giving (smaller amounts); events (especially with kids); and church/club service projects.
- For John, let him know that he has options for what to fund; you'll report back; PR.
- For Maria, pitch monthly giving (Miller said you may not get a lot of money, but even if she's only giving $5 or $10 a month, she's getting in the habit of supporting you and making that part of her life, which is important); events; Facebook causes; mobile giving
5. Do your homework before attempting to deliver the message.
This is where Miller said most nonprofits start, not having done all of the aforementioned homework on their targets. But in order to properly deliver a message that will resonate with recipients to the correct channel, she says it's necessary to do everything previously discussed. Do you do it in print, over the air, by e-mail, by word-of-mouth or social networking?
The best way to deliver your message is to use what you know about your personas to determine where they are now, what they already are doing and how you can connect with that, Miller said.
6. Research and learn more about targets.
Surveys, interviews and focus groups are formal ways of learning about your target audience, or just ask constituents to share information about themselves informally every time you communicate with them.
Things organizations should be looking to learn about members of their target audience are where they get their news and information (e.g., mainstream media, friends, co-workers, church/clubs, family, and online/social media), where they shop, work, relax, etc., who they talk to, and what they see, hear, taste, touch in their everyday lives.
Analyzing e-mail and Web metrics also is important. What search terms do people use to reach you? What pages are they staying on the longest? What are your e-mail newsletter clickthroughs?
"If you have two articles about two different topics in your newsletter, and 80 percent of the people who clicked through clicked on one, that could tell you a lot," Miller said. "All of these questions will help you figure out the most effective way to deliver your message and where to deliver it."
Miller suggested reading up on case studies from other organizations about defining a target audience and watching for trend reports about your target audience.
To learn about upcoming webinars by Kivi, visit www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com.