Trudy - Twenty HatsThat’s Trudy, on the left. She is 51 years old, lives in Fairfax VA with her software exec husband, Lance, and her youngest daughter, Angie.

Angie is headed off to college in the fall and Trudy is trying to figure out what to do when she becomes an empty nester. She used to be a school teacher before raising her daughter – she loves children – but she has not worked in many years. She is wondering if there is a way she can volunteer that involves children and will challenge her – she wants to do more than read to children or tutor them.

Why am I telling you about Trudy? Because she’s not real.

Trudy is a persona that I created while at Fairfax CASA to represent my ideal volunteer. For years, she gave me guidance on how to craft my messaging and direct my marketing. It’s Trudy who kept me focused on inspiring prospective volunteers who were a lot like her.

Old practice, new application

Creating personas is nothing new. Like so many of my favorite practices, the idea comes from the advertising world, where campaigns are carefully targeted to the ideal client. It’s a concept that translates beautifully to the nonprofit world. I have seen the practice used by volunteer managers and development directors. It helps in crafting everything from volunteer opportunities to newsletters to direct mail appeals.

Using personas gets you clear on just who you are trying to reach and how to reach them. Trudy reminded me to post my notices where a boomers might be looking, in newspapers as much as online, and to include words like “challenging” and “child-focused” in my promotional copy.

Feeling creative?

If you are ready to try your hand at creating a persona, make sure to include these essentials:

  • Know your demographics. Get clear on what your successful volunteers look like in terms of age, gender, profession, relationship-status, etc.
  • Build on the demographics with clues to your persona’s emotional world. What brings her to your program? What need is she trying to fill? What gives her satisfaction? The more you flesh out this piece, the easier it gets to write for your target audience.
  • Find a photo to bring your persona to life.

Keep her close by

Keep your persona tacked on your office bulletin board. Take a good look at her every day. And when you sit down to write something about your program, ask yourself a question much like mine, “What would Trudy like to hear about?”

Want to see the complete Trudy persona and use it as a template? Just email me and I will send you a copy.