The Right Attitude; five things charities need to know about dividing up their audiences

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The Right Attitude; five things charities need to know about dividing up their audiences

Segmenting your key audiences enables you to reach the right people with the right messages – the ones that will inspire people to make a difference will help you to grow your organisation and meet your objectives. By building up a detailed picture of your different audiences, their attitudes and their motivations, you can tailor your communications so they have the highest chance of achieving the action you’re looking for.

But researching, creating and implementing attitudinal segments are not easy or cheap exercises. Here are five things you need to know before embarking:

1. Segmentation is a hierarchy

There are three main types of segmentation: attitudinal, behavioural and geo-demographic. These should be seen as a hierarchy. Attitudinal is at the top of the hierarchy, not just in terms of cost and complexity, but also because of its ability to get your supporters involved.

However, a charity should only use attitudinal segmentation once it is comfortable that it has squeezed every ounce of value out of the cheaper and less complex forms.

2. Segmented audiences need segmented messages

Segments need to be treated differently. If you know somebody last gave £1,000, then it would be missing a trick to ask them for £15. The same principle goes for people’s attitudes – if one audience likes particular campaigns and prefers messages to be upbeat and optimistic, you need to talk to them about the areas of work that they are interested in using an appropriately positive tone.

3. Creating attitudinal segments is just the beginning

Researching and creating attitudinal segmentation is a very small part of your total energy and effort in the process. Anybody who wants to use attitudinal segments needs to be prepared to make sure their database can record which group supporters fit into. They will need to develop different messages, products and even different types or channels of communication.

4. Create a plan and supporter journey for each audience segment

Creating a separate communications plan for each audience will help you make the most of your attitudinal segmentation. Think about the journey you want each group of supporters to go on and start by setting goals for them. How do you want them to engage with your organisation?

Think about how these people think, feel and respond to messages and how you can motivate them to take the action you want. You may decide you need to develop anything from a tailored volunteering programme to a new flagship fundraiser or specific campaign.

5. The benefits of attitudinal segmentation can be enormous

We have laboured the complexity, the cost and the long-term nature of attitudinal segmentation and the need to send out a multitude of different messages. With such effort required, you may be tempted to ask “why bother?”

The answer is that attitudinal segments will best reflect the needs and interests of supporters. While demography, geography and giving habits are all important, they are one-dimensional attributes and don’t reflect the real people behind them.

You can use attitudinal segmentation to create communications that will appeal much more to the people who receive them. Often, the benefit is that you will be better able to persuade those people who respond ambivalently to traditional messages. That’s because targeted and tailored messages to attitudinal segments can get those groups of people who might normally waver or not be interested to start engaging with your organisation.

Patrick Brennan


Our guide to attitudinal segmentation for charities, “The Right Attitude”, looks in more detail at how this type of research can help not-for-profit organisations and the ways in which it can work alongside other types of segmentation. It includes help and advice from charities that have already done attitudinal segmentations and are gaining the rewards. Download it for free here.

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