Donor Acquisition Through Webinars?
I recently received an “exclusive” invitation for “select” guests to participate in a live webinar aimed at getting prospective students to enroll at a distance learning institution. Participants were promised the opportunity to interact with faculty members as they outlined their syllabus, connect with current students and even to discuss career paths with past students. In general the 60 minutes online were agreeable: informative, fun and, yes, a little pushy — with incentives designed to get prospective students signed up to a course of study as soon as possible. While I decided against this particular course of study, I realized there is a lot of potential in this webinar format for making sales, and I wondered how it could be used for fundraising.
So far I’m not aware of a webinar being used as a donor-acquisition tool (perhaps some reader will inform me otherwise?), but since I believe it has the potential to combine some of the most powerful fundraising methods currently used into one neat package, I thought it worth exploring. Pre-recorded videos can have the same function as a good DRTV spot, live interactivity has some of the elements that make face-to-face so powerful, the opportunity for a post-webinar phone call isn’t very different from telemarketing, and online payment channels could just as easily [be used as] online donation tools — all of this wrapped up in a neat professionally hosted package that is an online version of a telethon.
Let me say up front that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to test this format; this … is more about pondering solutions to some questions than really answering them:
- For which organizations would this format work most effectively?
- How to ensure that a workable number of webinar attendees show up at the right time?
- How to keep the participants interested?
- How to make sure as many as possible stick around until the ask?
- How best to handle interactions?
- What providers can currently provide the service cost efficiently and reliably?
I think this format would work most effectively for campaigning organizations that have already put considerable effort into social-media campaigning and that can draw from a pool of already existing netizens.