Updated: May 10
Tapping into innovative technology to cultivate donors, funders, and alumni.
How can #fundraisers harness the bustling innovation power in the virtual gathering space? How can major gifts officers and development professionals use new cutting-edge technology to engage major donors, funders, and alumni today and in the future?
I bet you have dreamed of an alternative to Zoom or reminisced about the #donor cultivation event days and social fundraising gatherings before the global pandemic. As a fundraising consultant, I deeply believe in the power of personal relationships to create meaningful and lasting funding partnerships. As a facilitator and trainer, I have been passionate about turning the online environment into interactive, inclusive, and memorable moments.
I am always on the lookout for new ways to engage donors, funders, and alumni online. And this is how I entered the world of spatial audio sites. I immediately recognized the tremendous potential for fundraisers and organizational leaders to move the needle and expand donor cultivation and fundraising efforts. Spatial audio sites empower nonprofits and donor and prospect audiences alike. They invite guests to co-create an online experience with organizational leaders.
Spatial audio sites hold many possibilities for small to large nonprofits. The cutting-edge technology opens new doors to donor and prospect engagement, especially for organizations with a national and international donor base. Colleges and universities, American affiliates of foreign-based charities, and international operating nonprofits are among those organizations that will find the most value in spatial audio platforms. Staying in touch with your donors and transcending geographic barriers has never been as easy and refreshing as today.
What are spatial audio sites?
Spatial audio sites are virtual spaces and venues that mimic the physical experience where donors, funders, and alumni can meet and talk. These platforms are online gathering sites that recreate in-person networking and social events and real-life social interactions. Your guests can organically chat in pairs or form and dissolve groups to converse and exchange ideas. The spatial audio sites seamlessly accommodate multiple parallel conversations using spatial audio technology.
These spatial audio platforms put your donors into a 360-degree soundscape where they'll only hear other guests within a certain range. These platforms invite your participants to freely move around and meet up with other donors or alumni.
Your donors log onto the browser-supported spatial audio site and receive an avatar, a graphical representation in the form of an image, photo, or live camera feed. Your guests enter a contemporary designed site that may resemble a living room, event space, outdoor area, or a customized room. It is an exciting arrival that introduces the unique experience your donors are about to have together.
Walking around on the spatial audio platforms is easy and smooth. Your donors can move around using their computer mouse. Once they enter a shared sound area on the spatial audio platform, they can have video conversations with other guests. Like in-person donor cultivation events, the donors can decide where to go and with whom to chat.
Fundraising events on spatial audio sites
Spatial audio sites are an innovative tool for fundraisers to create meaningful and engaging online donor cultivation and fundraising events. The spatial audio technology can help organizations create online experiences that are donor-centered and community-building. Cultivation and fundraising events that take place on spatial audio platforms focus on building and deepening social connections - between your donors and between your donors and your organization's leadership.
Spatial audio technology makes it easy to break the ice, meet and chat with guests, and personally engage with each donor. The spatial audio sites welcome friends and contributors from all walks of life: Introverted or extroverted donors, tech-savvy or tech avoider supporters, Baby Boomer or Gen Z funders, and prospective and longtime donors.
The spatial audio sites help you design customized experiences for your constituents. Setting up an event on a spatial audio site is like preparing a physical event venue. Consider your audience and the purpose of your donor cultivation and alumni event and plan an interactive and meaningful program that reflects your nonprofit’s mission and values.
The spatial audio magic unfolds when the event is intentional and well-choreographed. Most importantly, enjoy unleashing your creativity to make your guests feel welcome and at home in the spatial audio gathering world.
How to select a spatial audio site for your nonprofit
Most spatial audio sites that are on the market launched in 2020 and are in the advanced start-up phase. There are two types of spatial audio platforms: self-managed sites (you can set up the experience yourself) or service-based sites (the company will set up the event based on your requirements).
After extensive research and testing of leading spatial audio sites, I favor self-managed spatial audio platforms since they have a great price-performance ratio, provide flexibility, and give hosts the ability to fully control and direct the experience.
Consider these criteria to choose a spatial audio platform that works best for you and your donors, funders, and alumni.
1. Easy Functionality: The guests can navigate the platform with ease.
2. One-Step-Guest Access: No registration is required to join the event.
3. Browser-Based: No software downloads or installations are required.
4. Chat Feature: The guests (and hosts) can communicate with others in chat.
5. Guest List: The guests (and hosts) can see who is attending the event.
1. Affordability: The costs for the event are minimal or reasonable.
2. Customizable Design: The host can customize the event background.
3. Open Layout: The event space has an open floor plan.
4. Hosting Features: The site offers broadcasting and announcement features, screen share, and shared hosting rights.
5. Robust Platform: The platform is robust and offers customer support.
6. Privacy: The site encrypts the video and audio/is GDPR compliant and can be password protected.
Note: The Spatial audio sites are not yet supported on Chromebooks, Ipads, and phones.
Two spatial audio sites for your donor events
Wonder and Spatial.Chat are two platforms that meet all the criteria and have stood the test. Each of the spatial audio platforms offers a different experience.
The Wonder platform will be free throughout most of 2021. The company will introduce a pricing model later this year.
Features I love, and you might too:
A customizable ice-breaker question that guests respond to during the log-in process. It is a quick info snippet that every guest will see when hovering over an avatar.
Visual-spatial audio range circles form when between two and fifteen participants have a conversation. Guests can easily see who can hear them.
The ability to lock spatial audio circles for private conversations.
The option to share content/screen share within a circle.
Areas that can be set up to give the Wonder room a structure and guide guests through the experience. For example, areas can be used for event sponsors, guest speakers, or the people your nonprofit serves.
The ability to send private chat messages and messages within a circle or to everyone on the site.
The avatars vibrate when somebody is talking.
Spatial.Chat offers a free account for up to 25 participants and three rooms, and a tiered pricing model for larger or one-time events.
Features I love, and you might too:
The ability to set up separate rooms within the platform and move freely between breakout rooms.
Everyone can use the megaphone in a breakout room if the host gives permission.
The ability for guests to upload files and images into the room.
The host can "decorate" rooms by pinning photos, videos, music videos to a room (great for announcements and event sponsorships).
An interactive reaction feature allows guests to share reactions and emojis in chat and right next to their video avatar.
A designated stage breakout room for keynotes and panels.
The ability to delete chat entries.
Other spatial audio sites on the market sites such as Gatherly, Gather.Town, and Kumospace. In addition, spatial audio technology is used by sites specialized in large-scale events like conferences or galas, including Airmeet, Lunchpool, or Remo.
Experience and Experiment
Enjoy tapping into these new online tools. You will have a lot of fun testing the spatial audio sites and planning your first donor cultivation event. I guarantee that your donors, funders, and alumni will love the experience!
If you have any questions about the spatial audio platforms and your fundraising program, please reach out at email@example.com.
Tanja Sarett, MA, CFRE, CVF, is a global fundraising consultant, facilitator, and executive coach based in New York / New Jersey. She activates team-centered innovation and creative and synergistic solutions for visionary organizations and philanthropies. Tanja is an onsite and virtual facilitator, trainer and executive coach, an AFP Master Trainer and a 21/64 Multigenerational Giving Advisor. She brings to her work a wide range of collaborative and creative techniques from IDEO Design Thinking, Liberating Structures, the Technology of Participation, and the Agile community.