Donor Personas 101

No two donors are alike. That’s what makes them special—and what can make it difficult to connect with each one in an authentic and relevant way. 

Donor personas are the tried-and-true tool you need to raise more donors by respecting these beautiful differences.

When you sit down to write copy for your donation page, fundraising appeal, email appeals, or any donor communication, it can be scary to try to say something that will resonate with all of your donors.

Herding cats might even be easier…

What may resonate with one donor could possibly repel another.

So how do you interact with online donors in a personal way when every donor is unique in their values, needs, and situations?

By creating donor personas, you can connect meaningfully with your donors, craft efficient campaigns, and increase donor response.

What Are Donor Personas?

Donor personas are written profiles of imaginary people who represent a segment of your donor base or potential donor base with similar characteristics, values, and life situations.

While the profile itself might be fictitious, it defines very real people within the audiences you target.  

“Personas are simply the different types of people you are reaching. For your organization, they might be ‘college advocates,’ ‘concerned moms’ or ‘seasoned donors seeking a legacy.’”

Gabe Cooper

Donor personas give you an at-a-glance reference for the likes and dislikes, struggles, desires, perceptions, and expectations of the different groups within your donor base.

For example, let’s say you run an animal shelter where you rescue animals and try to find them a forever home. One of your donor profiles could be like this…

Name: Darlene Donor

Age: 35 – 50

Description: Darlene is unmarried and works at Main Street at a small local business run by a friend. The family pets in her home were a part of her favorite memories growing up. In fact, they were family. She can’t imagine leaving any of her family to suffer out in the cold without love and dignity – and that includes those animals who’ve been abandoned on the street. 

Why Use Donor Personas?

The biggest value donor profiles present is that they make it possible to connect emotionally with your donors by making them real to you.

Giving is an emotional process — and an uphill one at that!

Donors want to feel that you understand what they really care about. 

They also want to feel as though they’re making a real difference in this world. 

Donor personas help you pinpoint the concerns and values your content needs to address to resonate with donors on a deep, emotional level.

Doing that should make your calls to action even more effective.

Donor profiles help you reach your budgetary goals.

If you’re like most nonprofit organizations, you don’t have a lot of money to throw away. 

That means every communication campaign you launch can become a big deal as you try to prioritize expenses and optimize donor response.

That’s where donor profiles can come in handy.

Donor personas help narrow your recipients to the donors who are more likely to respond.

Rather than sending one message to as many recipients as possible using the “spray-and-pray” method, donor profiles help determine which audiences you should be talking to and with which message.

Donor profiles help guide the timing and frequency of donor communications. 

Some donors don’t want more than a weekly email from you. Others only want a monthly touchpoint. 

And they all want to receive communications from you at different times.

For example, a busy CEO typically wants their emails first thing in the morning as they power through their morning routine.

But if you’re sending emails to concerned mothers, early morning is not the best time as they struggle to get their kids out the door to school.

With your donor profiles, you can mark the preferred frequency of communication for each of your target donor audiences.

Donor profiles help craft a successful ask.

Donor personas offer a glimpse into your donors’ values, enabling you to make the right appeal to move them to action.

Donor personas also show you their limits.  

A well-written donor profile should include a good estimate of the donor’s financial situation.

This allows you to put together giving arrays on your donation page with suggested giving amounts that make sense for your donor’s economic status.

Kinds of Personas

Personas can represent broad categories of donors in certain stages of their donor journey or subsets of the general population you want to target.

In other words, you can define a group of donors by who they are, where they’re at in their relationship with you, or by their giving behavior.

Examples of Personal Donor Personas

  • Concerned Mothers
  • Outraged Citizens
  • Nature-Lovers
  • Supportive Grandmothers
  • Young Veterans
  • Blue-collar Tradesman
  • Caring middle-aged CEO

Donor Journey Personas

  • First-time givers
  • Recurring givers
  • Mid-level givers
  • Major donors
  • Legacy donors

Giving Behavior Personas

  • One-time donor
  • Large-gift donor
  • Frequent donor
  • Corporate donor
  • Volunteer

What Information Belongs in a Donor Persona? 


Demographical data covers the hard external information about the donor profile. 

Examples of demographical data include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Residential or Business Location
  • Ethnicity
  • Nationality

You can get as granular or as big picture as you need to be on this kind of data.

This really is the best place to start when creating a donor profile. 

Demographical data helps give donor profiles context as you can see at a glance the culture, history, and area that has shaped them into who they are.

These data can also help you make connections you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. 

For example, when you describe what it’s like to get a job when you’re an ex-offender re-entering society, you could tie this into the frustration a lot of young people feel as they hunt for someone willing to hire them even without work experience.

Occupational Data

While the demographic data might give us some insights into why a donor would be motivated to give and a view into their daily life, a donor’s occupational data gives us a better view of their capacity to give. 

Occupational data can include their:

  • Socioeconomic status
  • Average income
  • Educational level
  • Industry in which they work


Psychographics are data on your persona’s attitudes, values, or fears.  

In this section, your donor profile should answer questions like:

  • What are their goals, passions, and interests?
  • What matters a lot to this person?
  • What makes them tick?
  • What ticks them off?
  • What keeps them up at night? 
  • What are their most pressing concerns for their family, country, and future?

Your fundraising copy really gets its power from the psychographic section.

When you have a good idea of how your donor thinks, you can better understand how to connect them to your mission.

Communication Preferences

This is the practical part of the donor profile. It is concerned with technical questions like:

  • How often does this group want to be contacted?
  • Do they prefer direct mail or digital communications?
  • Do they want to see you on social media?  
  • Which social media platform(s) do they prefer?

Raising donors is about getting personal.

No matter what your cause is, your nonprofit is in the people business.

Fundraising is a personal endeavor. 

People raise money from people, and that principle doesn’t change even if you’re raising money through digital channels like email, your website, or social media. 

Donor personas are a great tool to guide you in your efforts to humanize the way you interact with your volunteers and donors. Want a tool that can help you raise more donors? Contact us today!