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Transform Your Fundraising with Values-Driven Personas

Posted by on September 26th, 2022
Posted in Blog, Capital Campaign, Fundraising Case For Support, Nonprofit Fundraising   

Donors are real people. This may seem obvious, but in the haste to meet fundraising goals and follow fundraising models, donors’ interests and values often get overlooked in fundraising communications. 

When you categorize donors solely by demographic data and giving-potential, instead of interests and values, your communications can fall flat, feel impersonal, be off-putting, or make some of your current and prospective donors feel excluded. 

To engage your donors more meaningfully and effectively, use values-driven donor personas: lively characters that represent a donor type or group based on what they value most. 

The more you invest in understanding your donors and what they care about (versus what they can give), the more successful your appeals will be.

Get to Know Your Donors

When you develop values-driven donor personas, first identify the four or five values your organization and donors share, the ones that will inspire them to act.

Example: Our campaign will increase global scholarships, bringing the best and brightest minds together to collaborate on solving the world’s biggest challenges. 

One of the values driving this goal is “solving global issues.”

Now, imagine a donor who deeply cares about this value and give them a name related to that value. In this instance, we’ll call them “Issue-focused Ivan,” because alliteration can help you remember your donor types and make them come alive throughout your organization. 

Then get to know Ivan by asking these questions:

  • What matters most to him? 
  • What concerns keep him up at night?
  • How does donating to your organization make him feel? 
  • What do you want from him? 
  • What does he want from you?
  • What must he understand about your fundraising campaign to see the intersection of his values and your goals?

Persona Example:Persona Name: Issue-focused Ivan Donor Value Type: issue-focused donor 

Persona Background:

  • What concerns keep Ivan up at night? A global citizen and successful entrepreneur, Ivan believes society has crumbled around him. Logic and truth have given way to irrationality and falsehoods. He believes something must be done if we’re going to be prepared for the next pandemic and develop the science and policies we need to survive. 
  • What matters most to Ivan? As he considers how he can contribute to effective solutions, Ivan also considers what his legacy and reputation will be. He aspires to make an impact by funding work that will enable us to conquer the challenges of this era. He’s heard about the global scholarship program but never thought much about it. He associates the program with its brilliant participants and their equally brilliant innovations. 
  • What does Ivan want from our scholarship program? Ivan wants to feel reassured and hopeful, as if he’s helped uncover great ideas and scale them up. For him, that feeling will be justification enough for him to make a gift. He wants to feel part of the scholarship program community, and to let some of its prestige color his reputation. 
  • What do you want from Ivan? The scholarship program wants Ivan to donate and to champion the scholars, the scholarship program partnerships, and its strategic direction. The program wants Ivan to feel that his gift has had a practical, world-changing effect.

Go through this exercise for each of your donor types. Once you have drafted your complete set of donor personas, notice how your messaging transforms when you have “Issue-focused Ivan” top of mind, versus a “mid-tier major donor.” Your communications become more personal and passionate and, as a result, more meaningful and inclusive to your donors.

Keep Inclusion in Mind

The questions about Ivan don’t address Ivan’s demographics, whether he is rich or poor, old or young, BIPOC or white. When you develop values-driven personas, a donor’s race, age, ethnicity, or gender identity should not be your main focus. In fact, fundraising models that rely heavily on demographics can leave out many prospective donors. Even worse, when you create “traditional” giving profiles based on a person’s projected wealth, this can reinforce race and class stereotypes, perpetuate exclusivity, and put off new types of donors who might otherwise invest—financially and emotionally—in your work.

When you are intentional about understanding your donors’ goals, inclusion is the result. No matter who they are or where they’re from, a donor will step up when they trust you’ll make an impact on a value they hold dear. 

When you take the time to understand the values and concerns of your donor types, you’re able to think deeply and strategically about messages that resonate with them, make them feel connected to your work, and lead them to take action to support it. 

Fundraising campaigns that use this persona development technique invite more new donors in, inspire former ones to re-engage, and turn donations into lasting relationships.Reach out to learn how Mission Minded can help you in your next capital, endowment, annual, or combined fundraising campaign!


Director of Education Strategy Romayne Levee leads our education practice, working with independent schools and educational organizations to raise their profiles with strategies that benefit school leaders and their communities immeasurably. She has developed dynamic strategic plans and brand strategies for Mission Minded clients from coast to coast, including San Francisco Day School, Friends School of Baltimore, and Marlborough School (LA). Romayne is the founding Board Chair of Vistamar School, an independent high school in LA, and currently serves on the Board of Lewis & Clark College.

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