If I’m Not the Target Audience, Who Is?
And that means you aren’t the target audience, either. When you write your appeals, you can’t assume anything. Your donors, prospects and former donors need you to lead them down the path one step at a time. If you write to yourself, you’re going to make some leaps in logic that leave readers behind.
How can I force myself to focus on who my target audience is?
There are no hard and fast rules here. A lot depends on what helps you keep that focus. When I was 23 years old and writing to 70-year-old women, I kept a photo of my great aunt Mary handy. She, for me, was the target audience. Forget Peoria; I wanted to know if it would play in Aunt Mary’s apartment.
You may not need a physical photo. But you do need to know who that target audience is. Write it down, or review it before you start writing. What do you need to say to communicate to that person? When you forget (or ignore) your target, the chance that you’ll communicate to the eventual recipient of your message diminishes.
What if I have no idea who the target is?
At many nonprofit organizations, you can determine your target audience by looking at who comes to donor events. If your focus is local, you probably know a lot of the donors and prospects. (In that case, you have to be careful not to assume that everyone is like the people who volunteer and come to walk-a-thons; do those energetic donors represent most of your support base or a small portion who like to be more hands-on?)
If you don’t benefit from actually seeing the donors, you can get a good clue about who they are by reviewing typical interactions with your nonprofit. Take a look at the correspondence received in a typical day or week. Is it mostly email, or are you getting a lot of handwritten notes? Are you getting gifts via check or mostly online gifts? When donors call with questions, do they chat a bit or are they “all business”? Do your donors cluster in specific geographic areas? While none of this is definitive, it can give you an idea of the kinds of people who are more likely to support or choose to support your cause.