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Getting Connected, Even in the Age of Zoom

By Jennifer Fitch

How do you feel connected to your donors when you can’t see them face to face? This is the dilemma being confronted by nonprofit organizations across the globe as board members, staff and supporters retreat to the confines of their homes to limit the spread of COVID-19. Yes, we’ve all been in the position on a videoconference when one person is gesturing to say, “You’re on mute! We can’t hear you!” and another is trying to shove an errant cat out of the screen. But that doesn’t mean the videoconference isn’t worthwhile.

One nonprofit organization we’ll call ABCD Org. had not connected with its partner families for more than a year. Some of the families had started to talk amongst themselves about the lack of communication and ultimately demanded better information from the organization. This situation was on the cusp of becoming troublesome, with some families threatening to cut ties, but ABCD Org. held “virtual town halls” in two time slots to alleviate the concerns.

The ABCD Org. town halls started with general updates on operations (new hires, number of intakes, office procedures during COVID-19), then allowed families to ask questions for almost an hour. The organization’s leaders remained respectful of participants’ time, ensuring the town halls did not extend beyond their scheduled end times.

Families who participated in the two town halls not only profusely thanked the organizers, but also committed to additional volunteer hours and projects. So many people have been forced to attend school or work via platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Skype that we should not shy away from using them to connect for uses outside a school or work setting. Be mindful of group size when scheduling videoconferences.

Changes to everyone’s day-to-day lives during the pandemic have further necessitated communication with social media, email marketing and mailed newsletters. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to a donor on a one-to-one basis when possible. Fight through the increased isolation with the personalized interaction and show investment in the lives of your donors. As always, the best marketing and communication to your supporters is anything that tells a story. Remember to share anecdotes that highlight what your organization has done, is doing and will do in the future. The challenges of the pandemic can allow us to forge relationships in ways we never imagined.

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