Every cloud has a silver lining. Even a horrific cloud like COVID. For the fundraising world, it’s the widespread acceptance of video chats.
The gold standard is to see our major donors — the donors worth the time to cultivate and solicit individually — in person. There’s nothing like it. When we’re in person with someone we immediately form a closer bond. We care more about each other. We listen more intently. We want to come through for the other person. We want to be seen as good. All of this leads to remarkably high success rates when asking in person.
The fallback has always been the phone. While we don’t benefit from looking in each other’s eyes, at least we hear each other’s voice and can have a dialog in real time. For some of us, myself including, the phone is challenging. We find it hard to read the other person, hard to know when to speak and when to pause. We tend to fill the awkward silences more hastily than when we’re in person, but at least we’re having a conversation.
If all else fails, we’ve resorted to email (or even texting!). Email has all sorts of drawbacks, first and foremost being that nothing is happening in real time and it’s impossible to read the donor. It’s not easy to have a conversation in such a halting format.
For the past year, we haven’t had much in-person meeting, and that’s been incredibly challenging. Here and there we’ve had a socially-distanced walk, or a visit in someone’s backyard. At times we’ve shared a cup of coffee on someone’s porch. Mostly, however, we’ve been unable to meet that gold standard.
As a fallback we’ve resorted to video chats, as we have with our colleagues and in our personal lives. The adjustment took time. It’s been challenging every step of the way and many of us are over it all. We can’t stand the thought of another Zoom meeting.
However, as we turn the corner on this pandemic and can see a future where we will once again be in-person professionally and personally, we will have a new tool to use strategically in our major gift work. Because video chats are the next best thing to being there.
When our donors decline an in-person meeting, or if an in-person meeting just isn’t feasible, we can ask them if they’ve got 30 minutes for a video chat. These video chats have all kinds of benefits.
- Donors who declined because they weren’t comfortable with someone coming to their home or office are more likely to say yes
- Donors who declined because they didn’t want to impose by having us travel to see them will be more inclined to say yes
- Donors who declined because it was too far to travel to our programs can now watch them remotely while chatting with us
- Donors we hardly saw because they live far away can now be seen more often
- It’s easier to make meetings that involve three or more parties
- We can share lots of visuals, which can make meetings more dynamic
- We can immediately share material donors ask to see by pulling them up on our screen
While seeing donors in person has always been the ideal way to have a conversation, the reality has always been a mix of in-person, phone, and written communications. Now that reality includes video chat.
Here’s to getting past this horrific time in our history and keeping the silver linings where we’ve found them.