For Impact


7 Lessons from Virtual Visits

WOW Email | | Nick Fellers

We’ve spent the last three months helping clients pivot to virtual visits. 

I still don’t think there is any one-size-fits-all advice but here are some of the more frequent lessons, or observations, we’re making.

  1. The sales model continues.

    Clients that had previously installed a sales model (to professionalize philanthropy) have largely continued their fundraising uninterrupted. A lot of the observations below are tweaks, not seismic shifts in strategy.
  2. Predisposition is important, now more than ever!

    The fundamentals of ‘sales’ and ‘human engagement’ are even more important when we can’t visit in person. Another way of saying this is that as we’re all figuring out new norms, doing the basic things well is all the more important.

    The first fundamental element to highlight is predisposition.

    Predisposition is an important part of the sales process. It sets the context for the discussion. As coaches we’re spending a lot more time working through predisposition strategy with our clients, this way the phone call or virtual visit is productive and we don’t spend too much time trying to navigate shifting and ‘new norms’.
  3. We’re constantly tweaking our funding rationale for context.

    We’ve spent a lot of time/effort with our clients positioning the funding rationale. Messaging and funding priorities need to live in a very current context.

    Note, this does not necessarily mean that you need to change your funding priorities, but certainly, you need to be able to speak to them in the context of COVID, in the context of your community, and — if you weren’t already doing so — in the context of social justice broadly and racial justice/equity, specifically.
  4. We practice asking questions and managing the flow-of-the-call in call-prep.

    We spend a lot more time helping clients think through how they will manage the flow of the conversation, in particular, how they will transition from the opening, to the story, to the ask. This includes the language to get numbers-on-the-table.

    Sometimes this is simple as a phrase. Some examples:
    1. “Right now we’re really looking for a handful of people that can come together and help us get this project off the ground. It’s going to require $100,000 all-together. Is that something we could talk to you about helping with?”
    2. (A variant of the Clueless Close, used to accelerate the overall timeline of the funding conversation). When the prospect asks, “How can we help?”
      “We have a pretty good handle on our math. After factoring in some of our existing funding streams, we’re going to need to cover a gap of about $1000 per family. Can I ask you to think about how many families you could help?”
    3. See other ‘closes’.
  5. Champions are (more) eager to help.

    We’re observing an uptick in champion support. As one board member shared, “I feel called now more than ever to step up and helping this organization is my way to do good in the world right now.”

    Now is a great time to work with champions to make new connections and help as natural partners for more complex gift strategies.
  6. Virtual very often means phone.

    Whereas it seems most internal conversations have flipped to Zoom, we’re finding that a lot of the virtual visits are happening by phone.  This isn’t to say visits aren’t happening via video conference but we’re observing approximately 50% of prospects (of all ages and types: individuals/corporations/foundations) replacing ‘in-person visits’ with a preference for phone calls.
  7. Funders run the gamut right now.

    On the whole, we see funders stepping up in a very big way. On a case-by-case basis (especially with individuals and corporations) visit-propensity still can be widely scattered.

    Here is some incredibly generalized advice. Think about your next 10 prospects in a 3/4/3 pattern.  It’s likely three of them are going to tell you they can’t fund right now. Four of them are going to have a behavior pattern (such as being hard to get a hold of) – it may take a little longer to get a hold of them but don’t give up! Three of your prospects are going to say, “Oh, thank you! I’ve been trying to figure out how to do more. I’m so glad you reached out. I/we need to be doing MORE right now!”

    As I told one executive director last week, “I’m telling you about 3/4/3 because I don’t know the order in which you’re going to encounter these prospects… and I don’t want you to get discouraged if the first three say, ‘Now is not the time.’”