March 14, 2024

Ecommerce Master Class Step 1: Picking your Donation Persona

Here's step one of our ten-step Ecommerce Cause Marketing Master Class: how to pick your donation persona.

As we discussed in this introductory blog, following key steps and processes in your cause marketing campaigns will increase the positive sales impact of partnering with a nonprofit.

Also, following the best practices of this Ten Step Ecommerce Master Class will increase the amount of money a nonprofit receives in donations.

So, it’s a win for you and a win for the nonprofit you work with! 🙂

The ten key steps are as follows:

  1. Picking your donation persona
  2. Choosing the right charity
  3. Establishing a co-marketing relationship with a nonprofit
  4. Choosing and testing the best donation option
  5. Compliance
  6. Conversion best practices
  7. Improving LTV and Average Order Size
  8. Marketing the relationship overall
  9. Multiple personas
  10. Effectiveness audit

Let’s review some quick facts. When best practices are used in cause marketing, it increases:

  • lifetime value (LTV), 18% 1
  • average order value, 23% 2
  • conversion rates, 19% 3
  • new customer switching, 50% 3
  • pricing flexibility, 67% 4

That’s solid marketing math.

There are other benefits as well, including employee retention, higher hiring-offer acceptance rates, and increased community support for your company’s mission. Not to mention, the wonderful opportunity to positively impact a worthy cause.

In the first installment of this Ecommerce Master Class, we are going to teach you how to:

  • Identify your top personas
  • Identify your personas’ propensity to donate
  • Clarify the causes your personas care about
  • Seek fit with your product line

Identify your top personas

Persona-based marketing is a tried-and-true formula in marketing that increases conversion, cart size, and customer loyalty. Applying customer personas to your cause marketing will work, too. The more you focus on your personas and craft your cause marketing messaging and tactics, the greater the benefits will be.

If you don’t have your personas down tight, here’s a blog and tool from HubSpot that you can use to build them out. My bet, though, is that you already have detailed persona profiles for your customers. 

When prioritizing personas for cause marketing purposes, you’ll want to:

  1. Rank your existing personas by revenue generated.
  2. Cull the group down to the top three personas based on those revenue numbers.

Identify your personas’ propensity to donate

Some personas, based on various demographic characteristics, are more likely to donate or engage with charitable causes than others.

Here are three key characteristics that affect donation willingness:

  • Age: The older you are, the more of your income you donate
  • Marital Status: Married people donate 1.3x more than unmarried people
  • Gender: Single women donate more frequently and at a higher rate than men6 

Age particularly affects charitable giving propensity. Of all donations in the U.S., here is a breakdown of the percentage that came from each generation:5

  • Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964) – 44%
  • Generation X (b. 1965-1980) – 26%
  • Millennials (b. 1981-1996) – 20%
  • Generation Z (b. 1997-2012) – 10%

However, this is countered by the fact that younger generations, particularly Generation Z, regularly say that they choose brands (85%), make purchases (84%), and recommend brands (82%) based on a company’s engagement in causes they care about.7 This engagement is the highest of any demographic group.

A few key takeaways related to demographic groups:

  • The younger your personas, the more likely your cause is to move them to brand-related purchasing action.The older your persona, the more likely they are to donate to a nonprofit at the time of checkout.
  • Women are more likely to donate then men, all things being equal.

One final factor to consider is – do I have persona overlap between my products and personas? Most ecommerce companies have significant overlap with male and female versions of their products, or even overlap based on multiple age demographics. As you select your first demographic group, look for obvious overlaps with other personas.

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Clarify the causes your personas care about

Once you’ve selected the primary company persona that you want to target, you’ll need to decide which charitable cause resonates most with them.

In this case, we are going to use the example of an ecommerce site that sells scuba, diving, and other underwater gear. Their top persona is women who scuba dive.

The challenge is to research and find a charity or group of nonprofits that match this persona. Ask yourself, what does your persona care about? What motivates them? What are their interests? 

It can often be easier to begin with the cause first (like ocean conservation), then dive into specific nonprofits that support that cause. Pick at least 5 nonprofits to start – you can always whittle the list down later. Be careful not to choose a singular nonprofit too early in this search. Invest the time upfront to learn about a variety of nonprofits and make sure the fit is exactly what you want in a partnership.

A word of caution: stay away from controversial topics and nonprofits. The more controversial the topic, the more likely you are to turn off a portion of your customer base so strongly that the positive impact of persona-based targeting is negated by all the customers you alienated.

Usually causes that are less toxic are causes that help in categories like education, topic specific advancement (i.e. if you know your persona is into scuba, causes that support a clean ocean), environmental issues, poverty alleviation, water availability, medical aid, and infrastructure support.

Pro Tip: Use AI to help

Here’s a ChatGPT prompt you can use to help with this persona research. For the purposes of this example, we are selling women's scuba clothing and gear:

  • Can you help me identify some important characteristics in this persona?
    • Demographics: Female, aged 25-45, living predominantly in metropolitan areas or suburbs.
    • Socioeconomic Status: Relatively affluent, suggesting discretionary spending power for quality goods.
    • Education and Family: Typically, college-educated and often in a committed relationship, possibly with young children.
    • Lifestyle: Interested in outdoor activities, particularly SCUBA, which indicates a focus on health and fitness.
    • Technology Usage: Skewed towards using Apple iPhone wearables, hinting at a preference for integrated tech and fitness solutions.
    • Consumer Behavior: Likely values quality, durability, and the performance of the products they purchase, especially in relation to outdoor and fitness activities.
  • Using these characteristics, what are 10 social causes that this persona would care about if they were shopping to buy [your product type] online?

Make sure to touch on the categories listed above: demographics, socioeconomic status, education and family, lifestyle, technology, and consumer behavior. If you don’t know some of the details, ask ChatGPT!

Seek fit with your product line

Often, there are ways to weave nonprofit donations directly into your product line. We’ll use the scuba + diving ecommerce site as an example.

A nonprofit that would be a good fit for this site is the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) AWARE Foundation. The PADI AWARE Foundation hosts an initiative called Dive Against Debris, during which certified divers help keep the local marine environment free of debris in addition to collecting survey data, which contributes to the largest global underwater database in the world. This survey data is used by marine researchers and policymakers for conservation efforts.

Seiko, a semi-luxury Japanese watchmaker, partners with the PADI AWARE Foundation to sponsor and support Dive Against Debris. Seiko has a special line of dive watches that lend itself nicely to this collaboration. 

Seiko knew their persona, knew the relative socioeconomic status of their customers, knew their affinity for diving and the ocean (of course), and found a great partner to increase persona connection to their products.

Even though dive watches are rarely worn anymore, it is a fashion statement and signals a certain lifestyle vibe! Seiko continues to sell thousands of them at handsome prices as a major product in their lineup. 

With this partnership, Seiko is able to attract new customers by signaling their support for a cause that people care about. By selling dive watches, Seiko supports the PADI Aware Foundation and taps into a new market. That’s a smart persona-based nonprofit alliance!

In the next installment of this Ecommerce Master Class, we will walk through the process of vetting and choosing your preferred nonprofit.


  1. Yotpo, Connect Your Brand to Meaningful Causes
  2. Phin for Good, Compelling Cause Marketing Statistics and How to Ensure Your Approach is Authentic
  3. Edelman, 2018 Edelman Earned Brand Global Report
  4. Mintel, #GivingTuesday: 73% of Americans consider companies’ charitable work when making a purchase
  5. Greater Giving, A Look at Generational Differences in Giving
  6. IUPUI Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Do Women Give More?
  7. Fuse Marketing, Cause Marketing | Teen and Young Adult Insights

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