If you are like me, you probably have some severe Zoom fatigue right now. I long for a traditional in-person visit to a donor or even an old fashioned in-person staff meeting. I even miss airports and TSA security! But, we live in a new normal where virtual meetings and donor visits have almost entirely replaced the in-person meetings of the past. While in-person meetings can still occur (ex. outdoors, with masks, etc.) or will come back in the future, the public is getting more used to virtual conversations.   Stakeholders may prefer to hold a virtual meeting at some point in the future donor engagement cycle.  Like it or not, it’s time to embrace this new normal and lean into technology as the future of fundraising.

There are some steps you can take to ensure success when engaging with donors virtually. Below are what I’ve found to be the most helpful ideas:

  1. Virtual meetings may require more practice to ensure that you are comfortable with both the technology and the format. Set up a practice run with a colleague.
  2. Send a pre-visit “context for conversation” message as opposed to a PowerPoint
  3. Start with donors who are engaged with your organization and know you best.
  4. Once in the meeting, your strategy will be the same as usual: Open up with the warm conversation, connect with the donor, make a support case, negotiate the ask, deal with objections, and close the gift.

What kinds of things matter on a virtual call (in other words, what do you have to worry about with virtual asks that you never had to worry about before?)

  1. Setting up your camera in a way that frames your face and doesn’t have many background distractions
  2. You are paying attention to lighting and audio quality. Make sure there is light facing you (that you are not backlit). Consider investing in an affordable ring light. If your audio is not top quality, consider a microphone attached to your computer (also inexpensive and readily available).
  3. Make eye contact with your camera. Yes, this sounds weird. But, not making eye contact is even more bizarre. It takes some practice as you are used to looking down at your screen. Yet, as much as possible, try to look directly into the camera.
  4. And as Vice President Aaron Burr would advise, “talk less and smile more.”