Covid-19 isn’t likely to go away any time soon. Not this month or next month, or even into the first quarter of next year.
And, in this Covid world, chances are very good that your most important donors aren’t going to want to meet with you in person. It’s simply too risky.
So, rather than not soliciting gifts personally from your largest donors, you’d better make your peace with asking people for gifts using Zoom or some other video conferencing system.
While asking people for gifts in-person is best, you can ask effectively for gifts on Zoom. In fact, because people are home and don’t have to do the things required of an in-the-flesh meeting, you might find it easier to schedule these video solicitation calls than the standard sort.
Soliciting Gifts Using Zoom: 5 Tips
While many of the solicitation basics stay the same — see the list at the end of this post — there are some things you’ll need to adjust.
With that in mind, we’ve come up with five tips to help you do a video solicitation well.
1. Ask for permission.
Some people are still not comfortable with video conferencing and would rather talk to you over the phone. Check with them to learn their preference before setting up the solicitation meeting.
2. Send information in advance.
You want to maintain as much uninterrupted contact as possible during your Zoom meeting. If you want your donor to refer to material you send, consider sending a hard copy by mail before your solicitation meeting. That way, they can glance at it on their desk while still maintaining uninterrupted contact with you.
Make sure your campaign material is simple and easy to grasp at a glance.
3. Use screen sharing only when absolutely necessary.
When you share a document on your screen with your donor, you lose contact. While you may wish to share something like a gift range chart or image, do it sparingly during your meeting.
Don’t plan your solicitation with a deck of slides, even though that may be tempting. The goal is for personal contact — not a fancy presentation.
4. Share simple graphic material rather than blocks of text.
Any material you plan to share should be well designed for maximum ease of grasping the material at a glance. Share it and then stop sharing your screen, so you’re once again actually talking to each other.
5. Limit the number of participants.
Don’t have more than two people on your solicitation team. And if there are two of you, be sure you practice in advance so you each know your roles.
3 Bonus Tips: What Makes ANY Solicitation Effective
Whether you are soliciting people in the flesh or through Zoom, some basics remain the same.
1. Good solicitations are conversations, not presentations.
The best solicitations are conversations. They are not presentations. Even well-prepared and rehearsed presentations become boring after the first two or three minutes.
2. Plan thoroughly and practice.
Make sure you can articulate what you want to ask them for in under 2 minutes. Time yourself. One minute is even better.
Prepare open-ended questions to guide your conversation with the donor. Ask questions that will give you insight into what your donor might like to give. This approach to solicitation may make you anxious because you’re not in full control of the conversation.
3. Use the standard language of asking.
Invite your donor to consider making a specific gift:
Susan, would you consider making a gift of $______?
Note the use of the word “consider”. That should be part of every solicitation. This language respects the donor and invites the donor to make a gift without being insistent or pushy.
And, of course, once you’ve asked for the gift, be patient and wait for the answer.
Asking as An Intentional Conversation
To learn more about soliciting gifts in a way that will make you more comfortable and engage your donors, watch this 13-minute video which explains the Arc of the Ask. You’ll be surprised how helpful this can be!
Few topics are more important than soliciting gifts. It might be a bit scary for you, but perhaps a bit of adrenaline is why asking for gifts in person works so well. Nevertheless, asking for gifts via Zoom is a solid alternative during these strange times.
If you have a solicitation tip you’d like to share, please post it below in the comments.