In a changing environment, nonprofits are exploring new and innovative ways to engage with audiences effectively. A key consideration is how to excite prospects and donors virtually to yield the same impact as in-person meetings.
Below are some factors when you are planning your next virtual call:
- Turn on your camera! It may sound simple but it is a critical part of making connections with whom you seek to engage. Don’t forget to give thought to your background to ensure that you are portraying the professionalism of your organisation on every call.
- Make time for rapport building. During in-person meetings there are natural opportunities for small talk with individuals to ask how they are and share anecdotes. There can be a temptation virtually to ‘dive straight in’ to the content but it is important to allow time to develop relationships. You may wish to start the call by saying: “thank you for your time today, there is a lot I hope to discuss with you but before we get started I wanted to ask how you/ your family are doing?” This will signal that you value the individual’s time whilst still enabling rapport building.
- Consider visual aids. Often during in-person meetings there is the added benefit that participants are able to visit the organisational headquarters or view documents as part of the meeting to create a greater sense of your ethos and mission. During virtual calls, this is still possible but may require more forward planning. The following tools are effective:
- Pre-read – work back from what you hope to achieve during your call and ask yourself: what information is it useful to provide in advance to pave the way for this outcome? Keep any pre-reads short and concise, they should whet the reader’s appetite and provide foundation information which can be expanded upon during your conversation.
- Slide deck – this doesn’t have to be detailed and you should avoid too much copy, use a small selection of striking images that punctuate your main points and help to navigate through the discussion in a structured way.
- A short video – though there may be additional work required to pull together a video, there is great value in being able to share a ‘live’ portrayal of your organisation from afar. Content may include a visual tour of a new building or testimonials from programme beneficiaries. If you do decide to use a video, think about sending it in advance to set the context for discussion and ensure that the quality is optimised.
- Plan your narrative. Think about the time that you have for the meeting and plan your time accordingly to ensure that you are able to cover all the content you require. The benefit of a virtual meeting is that you can rely on more notes than you may use in-person so don’t be afraid to use this to your advantage.
- Make it a conversation. Engaging participants in virtual calls does require more effort than in-person meetings as you are not as readily able to pick up on their cues. To mitigate this, weave multiple opportunities for engagement into your narrative; ask questions, seek their feedback and confirm understanding. This will allow you to gain a much greater sense of their interests and views to tailor your discussions in the future.