How to Leverage Virtual Meetings for Your Capital Campaign
Not long ago, capital campaigns relied exclusively on in-person meetings:
- Campaign committee members met in the conference room though one or two had to call in by phone.
- Consultants booked full days on-site to work with you and your staff.
- Solicitations were exclusively conducted in-person and face-to-face.
While in-person meetings continue to be important in some situations, the easy access to and convenience of video conferencing for small groups now provides a welcome alternative for some capital campaign meetings.
Advantages of Video Conferencing
People like the convenience of video conferencing, and you are more likely to get busy people to participate in your project if they can do so via Skype or Zoom. Volunteers can also participate regardless of their geography. Not only that, volunteers can participate from the convenience of their home or office.
With an effective facilitator, video conference meetings can level the field, giving voice to every participant in a way that is rare during in-person meetings. And, live document sharing makes it easy and effective for multiple participants to review and discuss material together.
Most people will participate even if they (or their children) are sick. On the rare occasion someone is unable to join the meeting live, with video conferencing you can easily record meetings and they can review it later at their convenience.
Advantages of In-Person Meetings
There are times when it’s important to meet in-person. In-person meetings generate a personal interchange that video conferencing, no matter how good the connection, can’t match.
When a group meets in person, everyone has a clearer sense of the other people in the room. You see the entire person, not just faces. And, you can monitor body language, as well as subtle shifts in energy.
When planning in-person committee meetings, you should use name cards to pre-set the seating plan, thus encouraging specific people to sit next to, or apart from, one another. Name cards also help members get to know one another.
Disadvantages of In-Person Meetings
Many campaign committee members travel a great deal. Some may summer or winter in a different state. When you rely exclusively on in-person meetings, you are likely to find it more difficult to get those people to agree to serve.
In-person meetings are often inefficient. People must travel to and from the meeting. Time is often spent gathering beforehand and chatting afterwards. So, a meeting that is scheduled to take one hour often takes two.
During in-person meetings, people are more inclined to give way to social graces allowing one or more people to dominate the meeting. In our experience these disruptors are more easily handled by a strong facilitator in video conferencing calls.
In person meetings often have last-minute cancellations. When a volunteer (or their child) becomes sick, they are forced to cancel. They are more likely to participate if they can stay at home and participate by video conference.
Other Factors to Consider
Video conferences don’t lend themselves to “parking lot discussion.” For many in-person committee meetings, the most important stuff happens after the meeting as people interact on their way to their cars. That’s often where they reveal what they really think and make plans (even plots) about the best way forward.
Of course, that kind of after-meeting discussion can happen through email after the meeting is over. Those email conversations, however, require more clear intention than the parking lot whispers.
Whenever possible, you should conduct solicitations in-person and not through video conferencing. However, it’s not always possible. And rather than simply writing a letter or having a phone call, a video conference with a potential donor is the next best approach.
Video Conferencing and Your Capital Campaign
We suggest the following strategies for using video conferencing for your capital campaign.
- Whenever possible, have the first meeting of your group be in person and plan enough time for socializing before and/or after to give people a chance to get acquainted in person. After that, you can shift back and forth between live and virtual meetings. Meetings that are more important might be planned on-site while other, more routine check-ins can be video conferences.
- Use virtual meetings for most of your consultant meetings. However, training is best done in-person.
- Solicitation meetings should be in-person whenever possible. But follow up sessions after a solicitation can be effective as video conferences.
- Because of the convenience of video conferencing, you can schedule more frequent, short check-in meetings with your key staff and volunteers.
Leveraging technology to make your campaign effective and inclusive is key to success in today’s world. Even your oldest volunteers and donors are more tech savvy than ever, because they communicate with children and grandchildren using video chat technology.
Be sure your organization is leveraging technology to communicate effectively with your volunteers and donors. They are accustomed to using technology at home and at work, and they expect your organization to adopt common technology as well.
Amy Eisenstein and Andrea Kihlstedt are co-founders of the Capital Campaign Toolkit. Amy will be leading a pre-conference workshop at this year’s ICON on “10 Tools You Need to Lead a Successful Capital Campaign.” Learn more here: http://afpicon.com/precon