The virtual environment opens up new opportunities for your organization and #charity to engage your most loyal friends and funders - and to create peer-to-peer relationships among the people closest to your #nonprofit.
Online fundraising and donor cultivation events are a perfect space to introduce your donors, prospects, and alumni to others who are as passionate about your mission and support your nonprofit financially.
However, connections do not just happen online.
Think about what usually takes place at donor cultivation or fundraising events and how your donors, prospects, and alumni often meet other guests: Your guests start chatting with somebody at the buffet, after scanning the room for somebody they might know, after getting introduced by a mutual friend, or after ending up at the same table or …
Traditional online meeting platforms make these encounters impossible - let alone that there is no dessert station or glass of wine to enjoy together.
What is the solution?
The solution for fundraisers is to intentionally design opportunities online to bring donors, prospects, and alumni together. Intentionality is the keyword to transform the virtual space and empower your guests to meet others and network.
Use your meeting platform’s breakout rooms to create these personal and memorable moments. But breakout rooms themselves are not the solution. It is all about the purpose and intentionality: Why are you using the breakout rooms? What are you asking your donors to do? What are you inviting your donors, prospects, and alumni to talk about?
Breakout rooms are a tool and vehicle that only unleash their power if they are used intentionally. The key are purposefully and well-designed online networking activities and facilitation techniques that are inclusive and engage every one of your cultivation or fundraising event guests.
A virtual networking activity that your donors will love
Let me introduce you to an interactive technique that your donors will love. This virtual networking activity is all about helping donors make rapid and meaningful connections online. As a fundraiser, you can integrate this activity as a warm-up or introduce it later during the virtual cultivation or fundraising program.
It includes 1-2 pointed and engaging questions relevant to the event, environment, or your organization, and 3-4 short rounds of breakout rooms. 2-3 guests will be paired up and meet for 4-5 minutes in the breakout rooms to respond to the prompt(s).
Here is an example of a prompt that helps your guests build connections immediately and generate meaningful exchanges: "How do you navigate your Covid-reality right now?
What have you learned to cherish most?
Once the time is up, the donors will meet another participant, a peer or organizational representative, respond to the same question(s) and build on what they’ve heard in the previous breakout room.
This cycle will repeat 1-2 more times. The breakout rooms are intentionally designed as short encounters. The big plus of including the networking activity is that it creates quick rapport among donors and peers. It creates an intimacy that is seldom in the virtual space.
After this virtual networking experience debrief it in chat, and invite your guest to share what the experience was like or what they are taking away from the activity. The responses may include "it was great to meet", "it was much too short", "not enough time" etc.
Responses like these are the best indicators that the virtual networking activity worked. Its sweet and short nature is its power. You will see the magic that will unfold and how the networking activity will help make your guests feel comfortable in the virtual space.
If you are interested in learning about other ways to bring donors together online, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.