We chant it together in my in-person nonprofit marketing trainings: “There is no such thing as the general public. There is no such thing as the general public.”

If you are spending time and money trying to reach the general public with your nonprofit’s message, you are wasting it. All of it. OK, maybe just 95% of it. But don’t you want to do better than 5% success?

Think about the change you are trying to bring about through your work. Then visualize someone taking an action that helps you bring about that change. What does that person in your mind’s eye look like? Where are they? Who are they with?

Now try to think about demographic characteristics that could help define who this person is, such as gender, age, ethnicity, income level, education, employment, hobbies, family status, religion, affiliations, and geographic location. Where would this person get information? How would she spend her free time? How would he spend his disposable income?

Now think about some of the values that would be important to this person. Values can include everything from time, money, sleep and convenience to adventure, power, status, fun, and more. Add those values to your demographic description.

Next, you need to match your message (what you are trying to communicate and the action you want someone to take) to those values. The way you describe volunteer opportunities to a 17-year-old girl will be quite different from how you describe them to a 65-year-old man. They are different demographically and they value different things. Your messages should be customized accordingly.

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