10 Tips for Conducting Virtual Capital Campaign Meetings
It’s a rare day that I don’t spend two hours or more on the phone coaching groups of three to six people as their organizations get ready for capital campaigns, which often involve virtual capital campaign meetings.
Befriend the Virtual Meeting
A few years ago, when I began working with clients this way, I was anxious about whether it would work.
At first, I wondered whether these virtual phone meetings could be as effective as actually sitting in the room together. (It turns out they could!) I pondered what would happen if I actually never met my campaign clients, but instead worked with them over months—even years—just by phone and video conferencing.
But I decided it was worth a try.
I was tired of traveling to meet with my clients. Sometimes travel to and from my clients would take more time than I spent actually meeting with them on-site. It was expensive and inefficient and not ideal for either me or my clients.
I wanted to build a model that was more efficient and even more effective. And so, I started working with my campaign coaching clients exclusively through conference or video calls rather than on-site meetings. I made a decision that the only on-site visits we would make would be to conduct board retreats, which really are best done in person.
10 Tips for Hosting Excellent Virtual Meetings
Several years have gone by since I changed the model, and I’ve learned a great deal. Here are 10 tips about working through virtual capital campaign meetings that you may be able to use in your fundraising.
Conference calls are incredibly efficient. People tend to get on the calls on time and ready to get to work. And there’s a minimum of idle talk.
It’s actually easier to get people to agree to serve on committees with virtual meetings than those that are in person.
You can build and maintain strong relationships virtually. Though I have never met most of my clients in person, we get to know one another in a way that is warm, friendly and entirely effective for the purposes of our calls.
A group can coalesce even on the phone. It doesn’t take long before people find their roles in virtual meetings, just like they do in person.
Virtual meetings require clear facilitation. Because it’s hard to know when to speak without the visual clues, the facilitator must do more to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to speak.
Just like on-site meetings, virtual meetings are best when they have a clear and simple agenda, as well as follow-up notes.
When everyone participates in a meeting virtually, the sense of hierarchy and position diminishes giving everyone a more equal voice.
Virtual meetings usually end on time. No one really wants to stay on the phone for more than an hour!
Combining virtual meetings with GoogleDocs or Dropbox and email makes it very easy and efficient to get work done.
The practice of having virtual meetings can be positioned as a benefit rather than a liability.
As noted above, adopting virtual meetings for your campaign can be a great selling point for recruiting strong campaign volunteers.
Virtual Meetings Serve Capital Campaigns Well
My experience in working with clients through virtual meetings rather than meeting on-site has been a great success. I serve more organizations, more effectively and at a fraction of the cost of my former consulting practice.
Speaking of serving coaching clients, did you know that you can get help from experienced campaign experts BEFORE you spend a ton of money on a feasibility study? Work with someone who’s been there—someone who can guide you strategically through the early campaign planning stages right through to selecting a consultant that’s right for your organization. Here’s what I mean.
In the meantime, try making some of your meetings virtual and see what happens.
And remember—highlight your practice when you work to recruit high level volunteers. It’s likely that you’ll be able to engage busy people in ways you’ve never imagined.
Andrea Kihlstedt is an innovative leader and expert in capital campaign fundraising. She wrote "Capital Campaigns: Strategies That Work (4th ed)," often referred to as the “bible” of capital campaign fundraising. She founded Capital Campaign Masters and co-founded Capital Campaign Toolkit, an online capital campaign resource and platform.