Nonprofit Web Design Process Part 2e: Personas | npENGAGE

Nonprofit Web Design Process Part 2e: Personas

By on Nov 21, 2013


Note: This is the sixth in a series of posts about the Nonprofit Web Design Process. See the end of this post for a linked index of other posts in the series.


A persona is a fictional representation of one of your constituents. When they’re based on solid user research, personas can be great tools for helping your design team and internal stakeholders truly understand your audiences.

Purposes for personas include:

  • Help synthesize and articulate what we learn about constituents through user research
  • Build consensus around target audiences
  • Encourage empathy for constituents when making design and/or content decisions for your website


When we create personas for a nonprofit, we try to limit the number to 5 or 6. Each persona should be representative of one audience group for your organization. Even though personas have different demographic descriptions, the key factor that differentiates one persona from the next is what the person needs from your organization. So, if you have a 65-year-old male and a 26-year-old female that are both looking for ways to volunteer with your organization, you only have one persona: a volunteer.

For each persona, I typically include:

  • Name
  • Photo
  • Character description
  • Technology profile
  • Definition of needs
  • Scenario describing how they might use the site/tool/etc.

Also, going back to the research, each descriptor I use would ideally be based on something I learned during the user research phase – an interview response, analytics data, survey data or something else that’s real and tangible.


I deliver personas either as Word Documents or PowerPoint slides. There are typically a couple of rounds of revisions before we arrive at a final product. Here are some personas I recently developed with a client:

Persona Matt and Lee: Major Donors

Persona Marilyn Kim: The Outsider

The final step in the persona development process is to socialize the personas around your organization. Printing them out and laminating them is a good start. A colleague recently shared this blog post from MailChimp with me that showed some amazing posters they designed to show off their personas. Whatever method you use, be sure that folks get excited about them. These personas will be your friends as you write and revise content, plan your email campaigns and optimize your website.

What’s Next

Next month, we’ll move on from User Research into Content Strategy. I like to think of Content Strategy is “where the rubber meets the road” in our design process since we get to take everything we learned during Discovery and User Research and start making actionable recommendations. Get excited!

Other Posts in this Series

  1. Introduction
  2. Stakeholder Discovery
  3. User Research
  4. Content Strategy
  5. Information Architecture
    • Sitemap
    • Wireframes
  6. Visual Design
  7. Solution Design

Lacey Kruger, principal information architect for Blackbaud, designs online properties for nonprofits that delight and inspire. Whether a full scale website, a campaign site or a peer to peer fundraising site, Lacey guides clients through a research-based and user-centered approach to design. In her 15+ years at Blackbaud, she has developed a deep understanding of nonprofit web presences. That knowledge, along with her years of experience in information design, have established her as an industry expert.

Lacey has written a Blackbaud eBook, “A Guide to the Nonprofit Web Design Process” and her article, “Designing Nonprofit Experiences: Building a UX Toolkit” was published in User Experience magazine. She has presented at industry conferences including bbcon, IA Summit and BIG Design.

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