It is an inescapable truth that our lives have changed, and as a result, so have the ways we function. Covid-19 has created situations making us unable to operate in the same ways we were comfortable or familiar with. For many nonprofits, this means no more in-person coffee meetings or other development discussions with donors.
The good news is this doesn’t mean we’re unable to have personal engagement with key donors.
You may have seen an increase in the number of people doing virtual happy hours with friends or co-workers; in fact, even the DonorDock team has had a few over the past few weeks. It is a great way to stay engaged and see each other “in person”.
This concept could also work for one-to-one engagement or small group engagement with key donors.
Here are a few tips and resources to help you conduct key donor meetings virtually:
Know your Donor
This probably goes without saying, but make sure you tailor the virtual meeting experience to the donor you are meeting with.
- Dress appropriately for the donor. Again, this probably goes without saying, but dress professionally, even when doing a virtual meeting.
- Decide on an activity that makes sense for the donor – virtual coffee, virtual happy hour, or a casual, intentional discussion.
- Make sure you have a solid plan for what you would like to discuss. Help them understand the real-time situation your organization faces, how current events might be impacting the programs they are most interested in, and how they can help your organization navigate these challenging times.
Use the Right Technology
Nothing derails virtual meetings faster than experiencing negative technology issues. There are many tools available for virtual meetings, but we will focus on a few of the most user-friendly, popular tools.
- Zoom – You have likely heard a lot about Zoom lately, both good and not as good. That said, Zoom has worked diligently to address security issues, and they remain one of the top options for virtual meetings for good reason. We use Zoom at DonorDock and regularly have a good experience. The meetings tend to work well with few issues or interruptions, they are simple for people to join, and work on most devices. Zoom offers a free plan that allows up to 100 participants at a time, and meetings up to 40 minutes long. This is likely adequate for most virtual donor meetings, but if not, you can get a paid subscription for $14.99 per month that removes time limits. Find out more at https://zoom.us
- Microsoft Teams – Teams is another fantastic option, and has proven strong over the last few months. Teams can support up to 250 participants, supports video, audio and screen sharing, and best of all is a part of Microsoft 365 (Microsoft recently renamed Office 365 to Microsoft 365). That is a huge deal for nonprofits as you are eligible for complimentary licensing of Microsoft 365, which includes Teams! Teams is an excellent option, especially if you already have Microsoft 365 (Office 365) for your organization. Check here to see if your organization qualifies for the complimentary licensing.
- Google Meet – Google’s video conferencing solution is a part of G Suite, Google’s answer to Microsoft 365. Similar to Microsoft, Google provides licensing for G Suite to nonprofits at no charge. This is another great option, and will allow you access to an enterprise grade suite of tools, which Meet is a part of. Google Meet really shines in the area of how easy it is for users to connect. There are no needed clients or plugins, making it fairly seamless. Learn more about Google Meet here.
- Facebook Messenger – Another option for informal donor meetings is Facebook Messenger. Millions of people use Facebook Messenger and are comfortable with it. Using it to connect with donors can make a lot of sense. It isn’t a scary new piece of technology, typically doesn’t require them to download or install anything new if they are on Facebook, and allows for a quick and easy connection.
There are many other technology options available for video conferencing so please find the best option for your organization, just make sure it works well and is easy for your donor to connect to also. And whatever you do, test the platform BEFORE you get on a virtual meeting with a donor!
Have a Solid Backup Plan
Technology is great, but it doesn’t always work the way we want. There are many moving parts, from your internet connection, your donor’s internet connection, and the video conferencing software – things could easily not go as planned. If that is the case, make sure you have a backup plan. Perhaps it is a phone call backup, a secondary video conferencing option, or a reschedule. Put some thought into the backup plan, and consider communicating that with the donor beforehand in case you run in to issues you will be on the same page.
Beth Kanter has a good article on virtual meetings for nonprofits that dates back to 2017, but is still relevant today. A lot of these tips can be helpful when planning your virtual meetings and I would encourage you to take the time to check this article out.
While it certainly won’t be the same as an in-person donor meeting (and the coffee likely won’t be as good), it is still an effective way to engage with donors in our current reality. One-to-one engagement is a key practice in retaining donors, and virtual donor meetings are now a vital channel through which we can engage with donors.