Nonprofit Marketing: How to Find Your Target Audience

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Sarah Kincius
January 6, 2023

Non-profits wouldn’t be non-profits without the amazing people who make them happen.
The question is: how do you find those people?

While hiring full-time staff is one thing, targeting long-term supporters of your cause is another.
Need some help? Check out our target audience tips and tricks for non-profits and associations to help your organization attract new supporters, boost its marketing efforts, and promote greater awareness in your community.

What Is a Target Audience?

In the world of digital marketing, a target audience is more than simply an audience you target. It’s a carefully curated group of prospects who, based on particular characteristics, may benefit somehow from the product or service a business offers. Examples of these characteristics are:

  • Demographics (an individual’s age, gender, race, income, etc.)
  • Psychographics (an individual’s attitudes or beliefs about a particular subject)
  • Geographic Location (where an individual is with respect to your organization)
  • Search History (an individual’s search queries that align with your offerings)
  • Shopping History (an individual’s purchases that align with your offerings)
  • Prior Encounters with Your Organization (individuals who have explored your digital collateral without taking action)
  • Devices Used (whether individuals prefer to use mobile or desktop devices)

In terms of a non-profit organization, identifying your target audience can get tricky — oftentimes, the individuals and communities you aim to help aren’t your cause’s benefactors, too. It’s also possible for a non-profit to have multiple target audiences that will vary from campaign to campaign.

The biggest takeaway here? Your target audience is a select group of individuals for which you design your non-profit and association marketing efforts to accomplish a desired goal. When done well, both you and your audience benefit.


How to Find Your Association’s Target Audience

For many non-profits and associations, finding your target audience might not be as easy as it is for a for-profit business. With limited time and resources to spare, you’re going to have to get creative.
Check out some of our tips and tricks below to help you get started.

1. Identify Your Goals

Before you even think about finding your target audience, you need to figure out why you’re even targeting them in the first place. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s possible to have multiple campaigns with multiple target audiences. Spend some time thinking about what you want your non-profit to accomplish, group those goals into concrete buckets, and then begin looking for appropriate audiences to fill each bucket.

2. Observe Who’s Already Here

Assuming your association has made it past the start-up stage, there’s no better place to start looking for your target audience than your existing supporters. What trends can you identify based on who they are as a collective? Whether you analyze your donors, volunteers, advocates, activists, and more, pinpointing these details will ultimately help you develop a marketing composite (see step 5!) that will inform your marketing and message.

3. Check Out the Competition

Sometimes, the best way to figure out how to target an audience is to see how other organizations are targeting theirs. While it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sift through the backend of your competition, take a look at their websites, ads, social media, emails, or whatever you can get your eyes on. Who do they seem to be targeting and how do they seem to be doing so? Any positive insights you can glean from this approach will make your own efforts that much stronger.

4. Start the Conversation

Speculating on your own can only go so far. Once you’ve hit that point, try starting the conversation yourself! From sending out community surveys to networking at events or even chatting it up with staff and supporters, see what your potential audiences have to say — their answers might surprise you!

5. Create Unique Personas

Once you’ve done as much research as possible, try putting it all together in a persona. Think of this figure as your ideal target audience member, one made up of the composite demographics, lifestyles, personalities, behaviors, goals, and objections of your potential target audience(s). Giving this data an identity (and a name) will make it much easier to craft your marketing collateral.

6. Test the Waters

There’s no way to be sure you’ve found the right target audiences without putting them to the test. And if you haven’t guessed already, it’s going to take a while before you know for sure. Ergo, test with abandon! Use the knowledge you’ve gained from the 5 tips above and start creating your first campaigns. From social media to the SERP, there are a myriad of free and cost-effective methods to use to help you promote your non-profit. From there, analyze, adjust, and repeat!

7. Build Your Digital Marketing Toolkit

Whether you’re aiming to increase association membership or build non-profit revenue, working with a digital marketing agency can be extremely beneficial. Partnering with the right agency is a great way to build your digital marketing toolkit! It also doesn’t hurt to do some extra reading—like this post on conversion goals for associations.

Sarah Kincius

Sarah Kincius is a Naperville resident and student at Loyola University Chicago. She loves going to the Green Mill to read whatever’s etched on the bathroom stalls (and to listen to the music, of course). Sarah is currently teaching herself Italian from a book she found in Wisconsin.

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