Site Visits in the Zoom Age

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA & Sheldon Bart 

In what we might call the BC era (Before COVID), site visits mainly entailed a tour of your nonprofit’s facility.

You took the foundation program officer or the major donor on a walk around the program site to give them a good look at your day-to-day operations. They were happy to see in action the services described in words in your proposal or application. The tour consumed most of the time available for the visit, with a few minutes left over for questions.

Now, after the disease disrupted our routines (or AD), the site visit is mostly entirely a Zoom production. It all takes place remotely on camera and is an interview with questions and answers going back and forth.

Here are two points to help you ace this oral exam.

First, remember that, as in the old walk-around site visit, funders and/or donors don’t usually request site meetings unless they’re interested in your nonprofit. They’re usually already sold. They want to meet the CEO and/or program director, chat with the clients if possible, and bring back positive impressions to share with the foundation’s review panel.

Second, keep in mind that from the moment the green light is illuminated on your camera, you are essentially putting on a show.

And you can succeed by staging it well.

Below are three pointers to help you stage an effective Zoom call.

1. Create a Dramatic Background

Rather than transmit from your home office, place yourself instead in the foreground of the actual location of your program site. That’s more dramatic.

If for any reason this is not possible, use a strategic photograph of your program site as a virtual backdrop. Pathlight HOME, an innovative Florida nonprofit who outsources its fundraising with LAPA Fundraising, that turned cast-off motels into supportive housing, effectively staged a Zoom visit for a $267,000 funder before a virtual background photo of their recently renovated commercial kitchen which serves as a vocational training site for learning culinary skills. They became a finalist because of that, and are now waiting for the final news. 

2. Develop a Tightly Crafted and Rehearsed Script

Prepare a brief, 10-minute script about your stellar program and its outcomes. You can convey a lot of information in such a short time frame.

How do you know your script fits? You must rehearse it and have a colleague time you. Rehearsal—preparation—is the name of the game in any kind of production, including your performance on Zoom.

3. Provide Powerful Client Testimony

Include having a successful client give a succinct testimony to the benefits of your program. But you can’t let the client wing it, lest he or she ramble on too long. You should create a short script (just a minute or two) for your client and rehearse it.

Of course, many of the “best practices” of traditional site visits carry over to the Zoom versions. Be sure to have a copy of the grant proposal and budget in hand so that you can respond if programmatic or financial questions arise. Be ready to email the documents to the funder or donor if need be. If there’s any question you can’t answer or additional written material they need, provide them with the desired information the same day if possible, no later than the day after the visit.

Also, send an e-mail thanking them for taking time to visit the agency.  Re-state in the e-mail the salient details you learned about them during the visit—the time to submit the full proposal, if that hasn’t been done already; the date to apply for a renewal; upcoming changes in the funding cycle or funding priorities.

Do you have any stories to share about smooth or disastrous virtual site visits?  Please let us know by emailing Laurence or leaving a comment below.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related Posts

How To Secure More Gifts From Donor-Advised Funds

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA We must ensure that all charitable donations are made available for charitable use, rather than languishing indefinitely in donor-advised funds (DAFs). After all, donors who contribute to DAFs receive an immediate tax benefit. But nonprofits have no idea when they’ll ever see a dime. DAFs have come under fire for the fact that they are not legally required to spend the money that they receive and can hold it for as long as they want. Plus, the fiduciary managers have an incentive to keep the money in the DAF. Granted, many donor-advised fundholders are both

Read More »

Segmentation Tips to Raise More at #GivingTuesday and Year-End

By Ryan Carpenter November and December are a prime time for philanthropy, with 31% of donations occurring in December alone. But if you aren’t prepared to ride the coming wave of support, you could be leaving dollars behind. One of the best strategies to make the most of the giving season is to develop segmented messages for various donor groups. Given that donors have been shown to give 10% to 25% more when messages are personalized, you must not ignore the power of customized messages. Any fundraiser can apply the following segmentation best practices to #GivingTuesday and year-end campaigns. The

Read More »

How to Win a Government Grant

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA, and Perry W. Kaplan Federal and state agencies provide significant support to nonprofits each year through government grants. But the process for applying for government grants is far from easy. In fact, it’s quite complicated. Competition for government support is intense — and the application process is fraught with complexity. Winning a government grant requires nonprofits to carefully align the main pieces of their grant proposals. Here are seven tips for effectively competing for — and winning — a government grant. Match the Funder’s Priorities More than ever, getting funded requires that you propose projects

Read More »

Three Steps to Manage Uncomfortableness in Fundraising

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA We try our utmost to avoid it, but feeling uncomfortable is key to fundraising mastery. In fact, the more advanced fundraising you seek, the more uncomfortable feelings rise. Yet it is an enormous (and lucrative) gift to yourself, and especially to your nonprofit, to work through these initial feelings. Aversion for being uncomfortable is understandable. Uncomfortable situations trigger feelings of being out of control. Anxiety and fear storm through us and our bodies get tense. Being uncomfortable goes against our innate desire to feel calm and at peace. Many fundraisers call me when they are

Read More »