Identifying Your Organization’s Key Audiences

Lisa Tarshis
November 4, 2020

I was talking with one of my friends last week. A family friend of hers recently started a small nonprofit in memory of a loved one and she was asked to serve on the board. They are planning their first virtual event and are trying to decide if they should send out snail mail or electronic invitations. 

It’s a fair question. In today’s digital world and with a virtual event, do we really need to spend money on snail mail invitations?

Based on the look on her face, I think my next question threw her for a loop. I simply asked… “Well, who is your audience?” 

It was immediately obvious that this had never crossed her mind or been discussed by the board.  

Luckily, this was easy enough to figure out! After a few more minutes of conversation, we pinned down her audience and determined which type of invitation would work best. 

But this small interaction again reminded me of the importance of identifying a nonprofit’s key audiences. As you know, I work with many small to midsize organizations and I’m often surprised to learn that they don’t know who they are talking to or who their donors are.

So, let’s take this one step further. How can you possibly plan when you don’t know who you’re planning for? Let’s play this out for a minute. Say we think our audience is mostly 50-70 year olds. They likely have grown kids who have already finished or are close to finishing college. They may be thinking about retirement and have more free time in their days. They may be empty nesters. They may have more capacity to make larger gifts. And they likely prefer more sophisticated interactions. 

The way we interact with this audience is entirely different than the way we would interact with a younger audience. The age, demographics, socioeconomic status, education level, family orientation and other factors of our audiences help influence the ways that we interact with them and allow us to tailor our approaches to be most successful. 

Let’s take a school for example. The messaging we might use to talk with a current parent at the school is quite different than the messaging that would resonate with a grandparent or parent of alum. 

Identifying our audiences is the first step in creating successful cultivation, stewardship and solicitation plans.

Ready to begin identifying your key audiences so that you can more successfully interact with them? Check out today’s freebie for an exercise in how to do this!