Kickstart Your Constituent Engagement: Get to Know Your Audiences

As a nonprofit professional, you likely understand the importance of constituent engagement and sending regular communications to your constituents and donors to keep them informed. You may also know that to connect more deeply with constituents and donors, you should target various audiences with tailored messages that make those audiences feel closer to your nonprofit.

But, before you can make your audiences feel more connected with your nonprofit, you need to understand them. Who are your audience groups, and how are they engaged with your organization?

If yours is like many nonprofits, you can organize your supporters into a few groups, starting with the closest constituents. For example:

  • People (or organizations) that support your unique work/brand/mission (e.g., sponsors and partners). They choose your nonprofit over others that might do similar work because of a sort of “brand loyalty”.
  • People directly connected with your organization who benefit from your work (e.g., survivors, grant recipients, and those served).
  • Those who are a part of your database because they have a friend, family, or coworker affected by your cause (perhaps they donated on behalf of a survivor, or lost a family member to a disease).
  • People who enjoy the activities you do to support your mission (e.g., you do a 5K and they like to run).

Generally speaking, the closer people are to your organization, the better supporters they will be, but the harder they typically will be to acquire. You can think of the groups as a pyramid, with the top being smaller in number, but larger in impact, and vice-versa at the bottom.

Exercise 1.

Here’s a helpful exercise for grouping your audiences: Using the group categories listed above, create a pyramid for your organization, identifying stakeholders in each group. Then, figure out how many people are in each group (# of emails in your database), and how much revenue each group is responsible for. And, be sure to account for donations, sponsorships, and fundraising. Here’s an example pyramid:

Note: Overlap between groups is okay and to be expected in terms of what email addresses fall where, as well as what funds fall where.

When creating your pyramid, keep in mind that audiences lacking in size or support might be that way because they haven’t been properly targeted or cultivated. If you find this to be true, there may be lots of potential sitting in your database!

Once you know how many constituents you have in each group and the funds they’re responsible for, you can create growth goals. You can determine which groups you want to focus on, and whether you want to grow the number of constituents, donation amounts, or a combination of both.

No matter who the audience is, they can support you monetarily, work or advocate on your behalf (non-monetary engagement), or both. The next step is to identify ways each group might directly support you or advocate for you, allowing you to tailor messages appropriately and complete a well-rounded communications strategy based on your goals.

Exercise 2.

Now take your analysis a step further: brainstorm how each group would respond best to a direct ask and a non-monetary ask. Your chart might look something like this:

  Brand loyalty Directly benefit Friends/family Activity
Who is included? Doctor’s offices
Drug stores
Those who have lost someone to cancer or know someone fighting Runners, bikers
Direct ask themes Support research fund Fund a new program Scholarship/ sponsor a survivor Success story because of event
Non-monetary ideas Share our newsletter on social media Sign a petition


Send an eCard
Take a quiz
Promote our event

When it comes to constituent engagement, there’s really no substitute for getting to know your audience. Once you better understand who you’re talking to, you’ll likely find it much easier to create messages that align with your organization’s goals and are more targeted to your audiences’ interests, thereby connecting you more closely with your constituents and donors today and in the future.

by Daniella Dowiak, Account Manager, Cathexis Partners
Daniella has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than six years. With a deep understanding of nonprofits’ limited resources, she is passionate about helping organizations get the most out of their technology.

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