How to Segment Audiences as a Non-Profit Organization

by: Jen Maslanski, Argenta Copywriter
In the increasingly competitive digital marketing landscape, non-profit organizations (NPOs) find themselves in a unique position. On the one hand, research finds they enjoy more goodwill and trust than most businesses and media. However, they also need to rely on tried-and-tested digital marketing tactics for practically similar reasons. Consider, for example, the relatively recent advent of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and other software NPOs need. Such prominent solutions highlight an undisputable reality; that one needs to optimize and segment audiences as a non-profit organization. With this in mind, let us explore why that practice is vital and how to approach it.
The Importance of Segmenting Audiences as a Nonprofit Organization

The short answer to why segmenting audiences is vital is that, simply, it works. It improves outreach and engagement, optimizes one’s workflow, and maximizes results. This is the simple foundation to which a plethora of such software owes its success.

The long answer may be more interesting, however. Segmenting audiences, as a non-profit organization or otherwise, has a profound impact on other strategies. Consider the following examples.

Email Campaigns
Email campaigns are among the most direct ways to ask your constituents for donations. Regardless of your goals, however, email campaigns are still a form of marketing that personalization can perfect. Thus, segmenting your audiences will allow you to pinpoint exactly who you’re addressing with each campaign and then optimize accordingly.
Social Media Campaigns
Similarly, social media marketing has seen widespread use by both non-profit and for-profit organizations. The simple reason for this is that social media platforms boast massive, active, and engaged audiences. Still, while social media users tend to be younger on average, each platform’s demographics still differ substantially from the next. As such, using Twitter or other platforms of choice effectively depends on segmentation.
Finally, a solid backlink strategy is arguably a staple for any successful marketing effort, which also partly relies on segmentation. Backlinks help generate organic traffic, raise awareness, and eventually build trust, among other benefits. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies now hinge on backlinks, which in turn gave rise to professional link-building companies. As such, if your marketing scope extends that far, you may consider this option for your NPO.
Ways To Segment Audiences as a Nonprofit Organization
Now, having discussed the importance of segmenting audiences as a non-profit organization, let us explore just how to do it. Traditional definitions of segmentation will frequently present such characteristics as these:
  • Age and gender
  • Education, profession and income
  • Race, ethnicity and religion
  • Location
  • Behavioral patterns and engagement history
Naturally, depending on your marketing scope, goals, and resources, you may prioritize any of these identifiers. However, both for the sake of text economy and overall convenience, I’d like to divide them into three manageable subgroups.
#1 Demographic Segmentation
The most frequent means of segmentation is, of course, demographics. Here, you may find the most fundamental audience characteristics:
  • Age and gender
  • Education, profession and income
  • Race, ethnicity and religion
This is an excellent means of segmenting audiences, especially for starting NPOs. Luckily, non-profit marketing lends itself perfectly to this approach since different causes often appeal to different demographics.
There are as many ways to apply this means of segmentation as there are organizations. For example, you may start with a broad campaign that doesn’t focus on a specific, ideal audience. Afterward, you may employ CRM-type software to segment your audiences based on how different demographics engaged with your campaign. You can then use this data to fine-tune your email marketing or other outreach material based on your findings. Notably, this is commonly also the first step toward such practices as building buyer personas and customer journey mapping.
#2 Psychological Segmentation
A less common but still reasonably prevalent means of segmentation is psychological segmentation. Here, you may depart from basic characteristics and begin to explore psychological factors:
  • Why do donors donate?
  • What levels of personal investment incite more engagement?
  • Which interests and values best align with your cause?
These may seem like less useful identifiers, but they are equally important. Data from the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer best highlights how psychological factors affect trust, and thus engagement. Among many profound findings, consider the following:
  • NGOs are the only ones seen as ethical
  • NGOs have the lowest trust gap (-2) between serving the interests of the few and of everyone
  • Ethics are 3 times as likely as perceived competence to drive trust
Such findings, and others, highlight just how significant psychological factors are to engagement and trust. You may thus conduct surveys – which audiences are increasingly more likely to welcome – and identify audience subgroups. A portion of your audience may, for example, donate to help drive social change, while another may simply do so due to peer pressure. Segmenting those two groups allows you to personalize your content for each and thus maximize your marketing efficiency.
#3 Behavioral Segmentation
Finally, an equally potent way to segment audiences as a non-profit organization is behavioral segmentation. Instead of innate characteristics or psychological factors, behavioral segmentation gauges patterns of behavior:
  • Regular and irregular donors – donation frequency
  • Lapsed and at-risk donors
  • Individual donation amounts
This means of segmentation is just as easy to implement; any relevant software can apply such criteria through interaction records. To effectively segment audiences as a non-profit organization, you will undoubtedly need to keep such characteristics in mind. That’s simply because creating content for different audiences needs to account for such differences. For example, regular donors may require more direct language, while irregular ones may need more psychological incentives. Similarly, retaining existing customers costs much less than acquiring new ones – and donors are no different in this regard. Lastly, you may wish to adjust any loyalty programs according to this data. Thus, you should approach donors differently depending on their behavioral patterns and history, and behavioral segmentation is the perfect tool.
To summarize, audience segmentation is an invaluable tool for all businesses, and non-profit organizations are no exception. Segmenting customers based on demographics, psychology, and behavior can help inform your marketing strategies. From social media surveys to specialized software, there are many ways to segment audiences as a non-profit organization – and just as many reasons for it.