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As we approach the one-year anniversary of the USA shutting down due to Covid-19, I’ve been reflecting on how work has changed for so many people.

The Virtual Work Model Has Become the Standard

When we established the Capital Campaign Toolkit in 2018, we set it up as a virtual and remote support system for nonprofit leaders.

All coaching, advising, and support was designed to be conducted via Zoom, in addition to the online tools themselves. We even encouraged clients to hold campaign committee meetings virtually, because they are efficient and effective.

Our Toolkit clients were coached and advised as we worked from the comfort of our home offices. At that time, the concept of campaign advising done virtually seemed somewhat radical to people.

Then along came the quarantine and suddenly EVERYONE was working from home and learning to Zoom. Board meetings, committee meetings, donor meetings, staff meetings… they were (and continue to be) held on Zoom.

Our somewhat unorthodox Toolkit model became the new norm.

Zoom Resentment and the New Normal

So Zoom meetings were normalized. And yet, nothing in our sector felt normal anymore…

  • We lost the easy camaraderie of being in the office.
  • We lost the water-cooler conversations.
  • We lost the unplanned conversations about this donor or that.
  • We lost the ability to visit with our donors in their homes or over a meal.

Think back to that first time you looked at a sea of virtual faces on Zoom during quarantine. You probably felt more isolated than ever.

But admit it — isolation is a familiar feeling to fundraisers.

Fundraising is a Lonely Business

The vast majority of fundraisers work in organizations where they are the only person in their department. They have little opportunity to speak with other development professionals.

And even at bigger organizations, fundraisers spend much of their time out on the road flying solo. That, too, is isolating.

So as the Zoom phenomenon took hold in 2020, many of us in the development sector had a surprising revelation…

Working on Zoom actually increased our ability to connect, lessening that sense of “fundraising isolation.”

Zoom: The Cure to Fundraising Isolation — 3 Examples

Here are three examples of how peer-networking and support groups via Zoom became a brilliant silver lining to this pandemic — perhaps even a permanent cure to fundraising isolation.

1. Toolkit Talks

As a direct response to the pandemic, Andrea and I created Toolkit Talks, our free, weekly Zoom meet. It began as an online meeting place… a community for professional fundraisers and nonprofit leaders to come together regularly for the duration of the crisis. We had no idea it would last more than a few months.

But, week after week, month after month, hundreds of nonprofit professionals (and even a few board members) tuned in to ask questions and learn from one another. And, over time, we — along with you — have become a durable support system for one another.

Support you can count on, week in and week out.

People Zoom in to join Toolkit Talks from all over the United States and, indeed, all over the world. Mondays at 2:00 EST have become one of our favorite times of the week and that’s equally true for many people on the call. The meetings are uplifting, cathartic, and fun. Participants join the conversation and regularly share resources with one another.

Beginning in January, these incredible meetings even became the basis for our weekly podcast, under the name All About Capital Campaigns.

2. Mastering Major Gifts

Not long after the pandemic struck, it became clear we would be soliciting donors via Zoom for the foreseeable future. As a result, I revamped and updated my online program, Mastering Major Gifts, to keep it relevant for today’s fundraisers.

It’s a VIP Peer Support Group.

The online content is supported with regular member meetings. Last week in our MMG meeting, someone referred to the meeting as her VIP Peer Support Group. It struck a chord and the 25+ participants vigorously nodded their heads.

This peer learning time has become one of the most valuable parts of the meeting participants’ month. It gives them a regular, structured way to network and learn from others in the field.

3. Weekly Mastermind Calls

Our paying Capital Campaign Toolkit members are encouraged to join weekly Mastermind Calls via Zoom. Some participants send questions to us in advance. Others pose questions during the calls.

Regardless of whether a participant brings a question, everyone learns something and contributes to the conversation.

These calls are so incredibly valuable to our members.

Prior to the pandemic, we saw the value of a regular opportunity for fundraisers to check in with one another and our experts, but to be honest, this has become so much more valuable than what we imagined.

Since participants join in from all over the world and all different areas in the sector, there’s no competition or concern about bumping into one another at the local pub. In fact, many people who participate have built relationships with others on the calls and would welcome an opportunity to meet at a pub!

The Takeaway?  Online Peer Support Rules the Day

The time of Covid-19 has taught us that fundraisers are hungry for online peer support. It’s a way to socialize and network when so many in-person channels have gone dark. Zoom has allowed us to come together in a way that will persist long after social distancing and this virus are behind us.

Yes, fundraising can be a lonely business. Whether you’re in a one-person development shop, VP for Advancement in a big development shop, or an Executive Director leading an organization, it can be a solitary road.

But now, with the newfound acceptance and adoption of virtual meetings, you can alleviate that sense of fundraising isolation.

Yes, Zoom is a Godsend for Fundraisers

Although the Capital Campaign Toolkit was built on the idea that video conferencing and web-based support are effective, the past year has demonstrated just how valuable this remarkable technology can be.

In the nonprofit sector, we can use virtual meeting technology to come together in ways we might never have imagined otherwise. And that’s a huge boon to every organization with an Internet connection.

  • You can work with the best experts, even if they aren’t in your time zone or on your continent.
  • You can build relationships with other people in the field who are grappling with many of the same issues you are.
  • You can easily reach out to peers and colleagues in the field with the click of a button.

Don’t Wallow in Zoom Resentment

Recognize the power and good that comes from this technology. There’s no need to resent it or to feel limited by it.

Yes, Zoom doesn’t exactly capture the magic of in-person meetings. But it offers its own sort of magic — peer support at your fingertips. A balm to help soothe that fundraising isolation we’ve all felt for years.

Find Out What You’ve Been Missing

So if you haven’t been taking advantage of something like our free weekly Toolkit Talks, it’s time to join up and find out what you’ve been missing. Fully appreciate and take advantage of the ability to build supportive relationships online. They open doors (and eyes).

The virtual support offered by Zoom can take you well beyond the limitations that existed only a decade ago. And that’s a great thing for nonprofits the world over.

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