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December 3, 2021
How to Train Your Team to Prepare for Virtual Fundraising
By Amy Morrisey

Amy Morrisey
Amy Morrisey

Since all nonprofits depend on their ability to raise funds, investing in the team charged with fundraising—through coaching, mentoring, and training that reflects post-pandemic realities—should be a top priority.

While some of the skills this team needs to learn are concrete—after all, the steps of the gift lifecycle are fairly well established—others are less tangible. And those intangible skills, such as interpersonal communication, perseverance, and creativity in the face of a setback, can all be tougher to teach. Remote, or e-learning, provides an effective way to level-up your team’s hard and soft skills.

Soliciting via Video Conference

At the end of the day, courses need to help staffers do their jobs better. Courses should be packed full of actionable tips and present an engaging experience, or your team won’t leave the course any more effective at their jobs.

Let’s consider what this looks like in light of one obstacle that’s become the “new normal” and requires your team to level-up their skills: making fundraising solicitations over video conferencing software.

Here are the skills your team needs to do this better and how e-learning courses can teach them:

Preparing for the Meeting

Just as with in-person meetings, success is in the planning. The fundraiser should know who they’re virtually meeting with, what that person’s connection is with your nonprofit, and what past communications and gifts have occurred.

Labeling and sorting is a great way to present this idea. Ask learners to drag and drop a bunch of “notes” about a fictitious prospect into a document, sorting them in a way that would be useful for reference during a call. Rather than just listing out the important points in a PDF resource, you can have the staff member practice recognizing important information through the e-learning course.

Navigating Video Conferencing Software

Fundraisers need to understand three key buttons on Zoom—mute, sharing their screen, and screen recording. A labeling exercise similar to the one below can add a spark to your courses while teaching this skill, with learners labeling each crucial element on their screen.

You can take this a step further by having learners practice labeling the key elements on different screen sizes – for example, what happens if their internet connection disappears and they need to conduct the video call over the Zoom phone app? It’s an entirely different interface and that should be referenced in your course.

Opening the Meeting

How should staff members identify themselves and state their purpose at the start of the call? How can they come across as a confident, assertive, and trustworthy person to give funds through?

There are two parts of this: what is said and how they say it.

Learners should practice crafting a strong elevator pitch for your organization. This is something that can be taught well through a written response that’s “graded” in real-time based on whether key information (what your organization does, how donations further your mission, etc.) was included. This response should be more concise than the in-person pitch. After all, Zoom fatigue is real!

Then, you’ll want to teach the staffer what a confident video presentation looks like. Consider showing them two characters side-by-side, presenting on video. Show one looking directly at the screen, sitting up straight, and speaking in a measured tone. Show the other doing anything but that – for example, slumped in their chair and fidgeting. Then, have the learner identify which presentation appears more confident and why.

Asking for a Donation

The challenge with virtual solicitations isn’t that your development team doesn’t know how to solicit donations, but that it can be hard to respond to a “yes,” “no,” or “not now” on-the-spot and over video. These responses should have clear next actions – a “yes” would result in a timeline for when the donation will be made, while a “not now” would result in a scheduled follow-up meeting. Staff members should practice offering the correct follow-up response.

A good way to teach this is to walk the learner through scenarios – when the donor says “yes,” when the donor says “no,” and when the donor says “not now.” Then, have the development officer craft a response, either by choosing from multiple choices or typing out a response, and give them feedback on their answer.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Development is a crucial part of your nonprofit’s success, and your team will need to evolve to keep up with the changing times. Whether you’re using hyper-focused microlearning courses or a multi-module, long-form experience, e-learning can provide a more engaging, illustrative, and educational experience than simply sending out a list of best practices.

Becoming adept at virtual fundraising—engaging authentically with prospects and developing an ongoing relationship so that they look forward to your next virtual visit—takes time and practice. But it’s like any skill: the more you do it, the better you get. Good luck.

Amy Morrisey, president of Artisan E-Learning, has nearly two decades of corporate training and development experience focused on leadership development and coaching teams and executives.

May 2021

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