Knowing Your Audience as a Nonprofit Organization

Many people consider nonprofits to be completely different from conventional businesses. They are often under the impression that the two are set up and run completely differently. However, this is not necessarily true.

While the overarching goals of a nonprofit are different, usually aiming to solve underlying social or economic problems or help certain disadvantaged individuals rather than merely gain profit, the tools used to accomplish these goals are often the same as conventional business. Namely, acquiring resources, apportioning and using them efficiently, and providing a useful product or service to individuals who need or want it. Many of the ways you will go about this in a nonprofit are similar to those of profit-driven organizations.

As such, the first rule of developing any nonprofit is knowing who you need to connect with. While this may seem obvious to any veteran entrepreneurs, many of those running or setting up nonprofits often overlook it, thinking it’s less of a crucial step for a nonprofit than it is for a profit-driven organization In actuality, they still need to identify which people they aim to connect with and help, and a lack of a defined audience is a key mistake for many start-up businesses, nonprofit or not. To survive as a nonprofit, you will often need donations and government funding, neither of which you can acquire effectively if you can’t connect with the people you intend to help.

Knowing the audience you’re trying to connect with allows you to create a better service and increase awareness of your company and its mission. It can also help you make better decisions about the development of your service, create a brand image, and fine-tune your brand design, which can make fundraising much easier. This means greater awareness of your message as a nonprofit and of how your company helps fulfill that message.

Most entrepreneurs know the value of targeting and focusing on a certain audience. The question most people have is “how?” This is especially true in the nonprofit world, as it often must be done with lower funds and with an eye towards awareness rather than purchases from customers.

So, we put together a guide to 6 simple ways you can define your target audience in 2019 to help make your marketing more effective and efficient and help you improve awareness of your company and how it can help others.

6 Simple Ways to Define Your Target Audience

1. Sample your product or service with a broad range of potential users

One good way to get an idea of your ideal audience is to test your product or service out on them. Free products and services usually attract plenty of willing test subjects. This is a particular advantage of nonprofits, which will usually provide a very cheap or free service anyway. It works especially well for new nonprofits which may not have a base of customers or capital to work off of. It can also present some compelling preliminary data you can then present to donors.

It also acts as great marketing for your new product or service. Just make sure you take in even amounts of individuals from a range of demographics. This means young, old, male and female subjects. Then, be sure to get as much feedback as possible. This should help give you a good starting point for any market research effort and may give you a few surprising results.

2. Collect data from focus groups and users

This is the next step up from testing your product or service on a wide range of people. Here, you select a group of individuals that represent the audience you’re trying to help. So, you might get a group of five females of different ages and run different ideas for marketing or product and service design by them.

This can give you a really good depth of knowledge into what problems your target audience is dealing with and how you can help them. It can also help you identify a more specific audience within your chosen group that may benefit more than others from your company’s services. Both of these can lead to more efficient marketing and services.

3. Organize your user data (from both users and funders)

Regardless of the means by which you collect information about your potential audience, organizing the data is key. It can be the difference between selecting the audience you can help the most, or who can help you the most, or wasting more time and resources chasing a less enthusiastic group of funders, or those who don’t need your company’s services quite as much.

So, make sure you segment the feedback you collected from your tested audiences in as many categories as possible. Also, be sure to collect data and feedback from your prospective donors. Some of this data would include age, gender, preferences, enthusiasm, related interests, or even previous experience with products or services similar to yours, what motivates them to donate, and the causes they are most interested in helping.

4. Look at groups with the largest need for help as well as those most likely to help fund your efforts

Another common mistake of many startups is focusing on the market that provides the best short-term results. An example of this is a nonprofit startup that tackles a very small, local issue with little attention to a broader underlying problem (e.g. raising funds to help a single homeless individual get off the street rather than campaigning to tackle homelessness as a national problem).

While this may lead to success in the short to medium term, it has a very limited range for growth and will have little lasting results in terms of fixing the broader issue. It will continue to occur on a large-scale. Your job as a nonprofit is to help solve the underlying problem, not the symptom. This can help create lasting change that can attract donors and more users of your service.

So, instead of just focusing on the most publicized or tangible issue for your product or service to help, look at which issues have the most potential for your company to help solve, or those that are growing fast and need prevention. They can yield the greatest success for your business in the long run and can help establish your nonprofit as a key player in solving the issues it was set up to address.

5. Pick the right segmentation technique

Once you’ve collected and organized the data, many people new to market research can often use a limited scope when segmenting their information. Demographics are the most common segments for creating an audience.

But, there are a number of potentially more useful segmentation techniques that may be better suited to your business. This is particularly true for more modern, internet-based services.

Some of the ways you can segment your data include psychographics, firmographics geographics, and demographics.

These can all help explain different aspects of your audience and group them together. Using them in combination can help you create a comprehensive audience that you can better sell to. So, research each of them, and consider them all carefully when building your audience profile so you can raise awareness of your nonprofit.

6. Stay consistent when targeting your audience

Once you have your audience targeted, stay consistent. One big issue with those running a company, nonprofit or otherwise, who are experiencing a rough patch with users or donors, is for them to try to turn to a new group of people prematurely and start from scratch.

Stay consistent with your audience and remember why you picked them. Even if your services have proven success and fewer people need them, this does not mean this success cannot be maintained for further growth. This consistency can help you break through a tough group of people, confront tough problems, and grow your nonprofit. This can help your company to provide better, more sustainable services and to help more people in the the long run.

This guest post was written by Susan Ranford.


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