Virtual experiences to find, engage, and predispose prospects
Funding | | Nick Fellers
Use virtual experiences to:
- Find prospects;
- Predispose prospects to a funding conversation, or ask;
- Engage with prospects that won’t take a visit;
- Illustrate impact to current funders; and
- Boost the alignment and morale of your internal team.
For our purposes, we’re going to define a virtual experience as a short-form opportunity to engage key stakeholders and showcase your impact. It should have an agenda that is relatively easy to reproduce. The production of this could be (and usually is) as simple as running a 60-minute zoom gathering, but when used strategically, it can have a very high return-on-energy.
This visual helps to illustrate how this format can support your sales process.
Note that the visit and ask remain primary objectives. Virtual experiences are a tool to support that objective.
Times have changed:
The way that prospects and funders are engaging via this format is different than it would’ve been 2-3 years ago. It emerged (and remains) as a low fidelity, high access tradeoff. By this, we mean that it’s not going to replace a site-visit, but the tradeoff is that we can bring our impact anywhere… we don’t have to wait for the next live gathering of Skoll World Forum… or to get on an airplane to introduce our work to a new funder. The tradeoff creates value for funders and prospects too – they can jump into one of these and control their level of engagement. They can treat it like a podcast, or engage in deep discussion.
A virtual experience is not just another zoom call!
And it’s not a virtual fundraising event. I want to distance your association with those concepts. This is what you make of it. We’ve seen:
- A funder briefing that harnessed the collective engagement of 80+ funders/prospects around on-the-ground work to reunify families separated at the U.S. border.
- Dance troupes in refugee camps streamed to the homes of funders.
- Real-time tours of new building projects with funder Q&A.
- Artwork produced in real time from a cafe in Kenya. (Special thanks to ZanaAfrica for allowing us to share this video excerpt with you!)
And the outcome stories are just as strong:
- New funding: A national foundation dropping into the chat to say, “This is powerful. Let’s connect to talk more.” (And then mobilizing within weeks to make a six-figure starter investment.)
- New connections: Board members bringing new connections because it’s a low-friction and high-value hour.
- Successfully landing visits: High net worth individuals who ignore visit requests attend and accept follow-up meeting requests.
Here is an agenda template we’ve refined across many clients and dozens of virtual experiences.