Branding + Messaging

Audience Persona Development: A Guide from ArcStone

The development of personas is crucial in web design and marketing strategy, yet it is often overlooked. We put so much time and energy into producing content, keeping our social media accounts active and driving traffic to our site, but do we even know if our efforts are effective for our audience? Or better yet, if any of these messages got to them in the first place?

This is why ArcStone’s VP of Marketing, Lisa Hirst Carnes, gave a talk a few weeks back on audience persona development for nonprofits. She walked attendees through how a nonprofit might develop their personas, create the right content for them, and then get this content to them when they’re online.

Read on for the recap and to discover how you might better understand this process.


  1. Understand what a persona is in the first place. They are defined as fictional portrayals of your client base.
  2. Ask yourself who you want to attract to your nonprofit and segment these people into lists (donors, volunteers, those in need). We find that most nonprofits have 3-5 personas.
  3. Define each type of persona more thoroughly. To do so, ask yourself what a typical day in their life looks like, where they spend time on the web, and essentially, how they would interact with your organization. For example, you’ll want to know when they might open their emails so you can know when to send out your newsletter. You’ll want to understand if they prefer Facebook or LinkedIn to know to which social media platform you’ll want to direct your attention. persona-development-guide
  4. Think about the emotions of your personas. Who do they trust and what would their concerns be? Keep these in mind when building out your content (blogs, social media posts). For more on how trust works in marketing, take a look at a blog written by Lisa, “What’s Trust Got to Do with It?”
  5. Use data that is easily accessible to you. We use some of the following at ArcStone: Google Analytics, Google Trends, audience persona interviews, and an Audience Persona Builder.
  6. Keep track of your segments. We’ve used Trello to fully define each persona – check out an example board here
  7. Take action through an organized social publishing process. You can also use a tool like Trello to create boards for each persona. In the first column, describe your persona; in the next, write out a list of blog topics and other content they might like; then create columns for “in process,” “social media promotion,” and “complete” so that you can roll out content for each audience.

For the full recap of this event, take a look at the Nonprofit Tech Talk Recap. If you want to be updated on future talks similar to this, sign up for our newsletter, The Nerdy Nonprofit.