Connecting with Intent: How to Communicate with a Nonprofit’s 3 Target Audiences

connecting with intent

Just like anything else you do when operating a nonprofit, every aspect of your marketing and communications plan needs to be intentional. From sharing content on social media to printing informational brochures, you always need to be asking:

  •    Who is the audience for this content?
  •    Why are you sharing this content?
  •    How should you convey your message?
  •    What format will work best?

When sharing any piece of content, it should be directed to at least one of the following target audiences:


There is value to informing the general community about your services and I think general awareness is excellent! However, think about it. When posting a general post about your mission on social media, what do you hope the outcome of the post will be? That someone will rest easy tonight now that they know exactly what your organization does? Probably not. More than likely, your intent is that someone will be driven to give, volunteer or reach out for your service. While general awareness campaigns and collateral can drive such engagement, it is crucial to remain intentional with every communication you create. By being specific to an audience, you can make sure you are using language that allows that particular audience to feel engaged.

Is there a stigma associated with your organization’s services? Make sure you have communication channels that allow clients to feel comfortable reaching out to you for service. Share testimonials and local statistics about how prevalent an issue is, be open about your financial assistance program. When communicating with clients, they should feel positive that there are little to no barriers when accessing your organization’s resources and that they feel welcomed and accepted.

Donors and volunteers are similar audiences. Both want to contribute to your organization and feel engaged with their community. While they can be similar, it is still important to not group them into one audience. Donors should feel an attachment to their gift and know the difference it makes. Both first-time and veteran volunteers should understand the mission of your agency and the specific impact of their tasks. Let’s take a deeper dive into each audience and how you can connect with each.


Why Focus on Donors

The reason to connect with donors goes beyond asking for money. Engaging with donors outside of appeals makes them feel more connected with your organization and appreciated. And only good things can come from that.

How to Frame Your Message

Always stress how much you value their relationship and try to go a step further letting them know how their gift benefits the organization. When sending an appeal, share what the value of their contribution can purchase, so it feels more personal. Use language that makes them feel like they are making an impact – and be personable with handwritten messages!

What Formats to Use

  • Mail your annual report to key donors
  • Send a quarterly email newsletter updating your donors on agency happenings
  • Invite donors to volunteer at an event
  • Send a postcard inviting donors to your upcoming fundraiser or event
  • Handwritten thank you notes to key donors


Why Focus on Volunteers

Don’t just assume that  because you’re a nonprofit, folks will be blindly calling you for volunteer opportunities or that if someone volunteers once, they will automatically come back. Volunteers can’t help if they don’t know what you need.

How to Frame Your Message

Have you ever volunteered for an organization, showed up and then sat around and waited while the volunteer coordinator figures out what you should be doing? How did that make you feel about your time and the organization? It is so important to make sure volunteers feel valued and that their time is being respected. When communicating with your volunteers, use language that makes sure volunteers feel appreciated and needed. Let them know precisely how their task benefits your organization and moves its mission. Message volunteers before and after volunteering to give them information relevant to the task, an opportunity to ask questions, insight into the impact they made and info about future opportunities. From volunteer orientation to a follow up thank you, clear communication is critical to ensure volunteers are aware of expectations, needs, and their impact.

What Formats to Use

  • Send a quarterly email newsletter updating your donors on agency happenings (and upcoming volunteer opportunities!)
  • Invite them to upcoming fundraisers and events allowing the option to attend or volunteer
  • Share photos and highlight their work on social media. If possible and permitted, tag them or their affiliated group/employer if you can
  • Handwritten thank you notes to significant volunteers


Why Focus on Clients

The most difficult audience to connect with can be your clients and potential clients. It happens often – someone says ‘there’s no *insert something you provide here* service,’ when in fact your nonprofit does just that! It’s essential for potential and current clients to know you exist and know about ALL of your services.

How to Frame Your Message

Be positive! Show the benefits of your program in all your communication. Make it personable by sharing relatable testimonials. Clients shouldn’t feel bad or like there is a stigma to reaching out to you. Let them know they’re not alone and that you can help.

What Formats to Use

  • Be where the clients are. Attend local outreach and community events
  • Partner with other organizations and government departments so that they’re aware of your programs and have collateral on hand to pass along
  • Share testimonials on social media to reduce stigma
  • Apply for Google Ad Grants to increase your Google presence

Focusing on these three critical audiences is the first step to becoming more intentional with your marketing. Making a marketing and communication plan can ensure you are checking in on all your audiences throughout the year appropriately.

If all that sounds overwhelming, let’s chat. I’m here to help!


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