The bad news for nonprofits? It looks like we’re in it for the long haul with social distancing restrictions. The good news? Major gift solicitations on a virtual platform seem to be working. But as with all solicitations, there is a right and a wrong way to go about it. And without the personal foundation of a face-to-face connection, fundraisers need to be more prepared and strategic when fundraising in a virtual environment.
Over the past six months, our team has adapted to this new normal of fundraising, and has seen some fabulous outcomes. So, we wanted to share our tips and strategies for making your virtual asks a success.
- Best Practices Still Apply
Regardless of the medium, all fundraisers should do their research and understand their donor’s motivations and interests. In the virtual meeting, express awareness of those interests and how they parallel the case for your organization’s campaign efforts.
- Be Flexible when making the Appointment
When requesting the meeting, suggest a virtual platform because it allows you to be “face-to-face” and discuss the project in more detail. At this point, most donors are used to virtual conference calls, but read the room and suggest a phone call if you sense the donor isn’t comfortable with video. Reassure the donor that if Zoom or Microsoft Teams isn’t for them, you can cover everything on a phone call in 45 minutes.
- Make a Plan
Mistakes are more likely to occur without the help of body language queues or the ability to fill unexpected gaps in conversation. Prep work should include: a debrief with your solicitation team (staff and/or volunteers) so everyone is clear about the ask amount, goals and strategy. Make sure you outline and communicate what role everyone will play in the meeting, so everyone knows what to say and when to jump in. Prepare an agenda with detailed talking points for you and your colleagues. Make the conversation feel natural and seamless – as if you’re in the room together.
- Avoid Surprises
Even when you solicit face-to-face, it is critical that your donor sees it coming. As a good fundraiser, you have laid the groundwork for the ask, and your donor is ready for you to pop the question. This is even more important in a virtual setting, where surprises can get awkward quickly. It is not easy to manage surprises on a video conference call, so be 100% sure your donor knows what to expect.
- Send Supporting Materials in Advance
Nothing ruins the momentum of a virtual meeting like technical difficulties. Try to avoid screen sharing by sending your donor a PowerPoint or any other supplemental materials in advance. You want to maximize your face-to-face time with your donor and avoid potential freezing or other technical problems that may arise when screen sharing.
- Closing the Gift
After your successful virtual solicitation, immediately send your donor a follow up note to close the gift. The note needs to outline what they have agreed to give, what they are giving to, and over what period of time. There are a number of programs out there than can make signing electronic documents easy. It may be worth investing in those platforms as we shift towards a more virtual marketplace.
For more information on the complexities of major gift fundraising, reach out to our team at email@example.com or 816-237-1999.