Two Great Tools for Perfecting your Personas

Personas are a super important part of getting your messaging to resonate with different target audiences. That’s why we’ve written so many posts on it on blogs. Like this one, and this one, and this one, for instance.

Refresher: Personas get you out of your head and into the heads–and ultimately hearts–of your donors, supporters, volunteers, board members, etc. They allow you to understand the motivations and behaviors of different types of people. This means you can optimize your messaging and the mechanisms in which you use that messaging, e.g. website, Twitter, appeal letters, etc.

In Claxon University’s Words on a Mission course, nonprofits create a persona in Lesson 7. In prepping the Study Guide for that lesson, we came across two suuuuuuuuuuper funective (fun + effective) tools for  building personas. They give you extremely useful info on people in different zip codes and couldn’t be easier to use.

1) ESRI’s Zip Lookup

They’ve created a series of different target audience groups. Clack in any zip code in the country and you get a quick n’ dirty sense of who is living in that area. I tried 98118, the most diverse zip code in the country as of a few years ago. Here’s what I learned:

ESRI Screen Shot 1


And when you click on one of the titles, you get info about that group:

ESRI Screen Shot 2


You can also quickly see info about income by zip code, county, state and the country as a whole. Super spiffy.

2) Nielson’s MyBestSegments Tool

You can also search by zip code using this tool. Their breakdowns are a little more granular. You get information like this:

Nielson Zip look up


And then you can click on segments for a description, like this one for the Big City Blues segment.

Again, super spiffiness abounds on this site.

These are both great jumping off points for nonprofits who are savvy enough to create personas. Yes, you’ll still have to do work to create a persona that makes sense for your marketing objectives. But these free tools mean you can get all sorts of really good data in about as long as it takes you to say, “Do I have to create a persona?!” (Answer: Only if you want fabulous messaging that helps you successfully achieve your goals…up to you.)

P.S. Need some quick inspiration to get you going? Behold–personas in a 140 characters or less, all based on census data. Short, sweet n’ geeky.

***Want to engage more people more deeply in your mission? Grab your seat at Claxon University!***

No more light knocking: Unexpected Inspiration from #12NTC

door, old door, wooden door
No one can hear you when you knock lightly!

“Stop knocking lightly on the door of change. We’ve got to knock it down! People are counting on you.” 

By day, Jeff Shuck runs Event 360. By night (or perhaps in the wee hours of the morning as he has 4 kids!), he blogs at Your Part Matters.

At the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference, Jeff gave a session on using data to effectively segment your audiences. There was talk of regression and p-values and pivot tables. Not what many would consider “inspiring”, although highly useful.

That’s why his closing was so unexpected…and awesome.

After geeking out for 87 minutes, Jeff took the last 3 minutes to implore the audience to get serious about doing good. To do more. To do it louder. To get more people involved. To really give this making the world a better place stuff everything we’ve got.

I said a really loud “Amen!” and whooped a lot at the end. If it’d been remotely appropriate, I would’ve stood on my chair and cheered.

We’d spent the morning listening to Dan Roam, author of Blah, Blah, Blah, so we all had visual representation on our minds. But Jeff’s words gave us all a mental picture that we can use every day to gauge our effort, if not our impact:

Did we knock the door down today or simply lightly knock, hoping not to disturb anyone with our do-gooder ways?

Perhaps it’s not realistic that every day we’ll knock the door off its hinges. But just by asking the question, we’re way more likely to way more often, right?

Even if you’re not an Excel whiz or a data-head, check out his session for that last bit. It’s worth it.

For  more inspiration, check out the Do Gooder Video award winners, which were announced at the conference. (Get out the hankies!)


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?