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Webinars: The Powerful New Tool for Connecting with Your Donors

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One of the unexpected things we’ve learned from the pandemic is how to have amazing online webinars with donors. They can really build donor relationships — and raise funds.

I realize by the time you’ve had your fifth Zoom meeting of the day you may not think another one with donors is such a great idea. But if you do it right, a donor webinar can bring them closer to your organization and your cause and prepare them to donate or thank them for previous donations. Or both.

But as we all know too well, online webinars can be deadly.

Let me show you some of the most common failures that kill donor webinars — and how you can avoid them.

Donor Webinar Fail #1: It’s boring

This is the most common and most deadly failure for donor webinars. A boring webinar will do more harm than good. Here are some of the things to avoid:

  • Bullet lists of projects: Boring. 
  • Statistics: Boring. 
  • Graphs and charts: Boring. 
  • Internal expert-speak: Boring.

What’s not boring? Stories.

Telling stories is what your donor webinar is about. Don’t think of your webinar as a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, think of yourself as a TV producer. Entertain! Remember, your donors aren’t being paid to be there like a staff meeting. 

  • Feature people who are engaging and interesting storytellers. 
  • Use experts if they’re storytellers. Don’t use experts who drone on with facts and stats — no matter how important and smart they are!
  • Grip the audience early with a story. Maybe a video.
  • Keep the audience anticipating what’s next. 
  • Have an overall arc — with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Invite questions before and during. This is where you have a big advantage over TV.
  • Have some questions already in mind to help “prime the pump” if you aren’t getting many from donors.
  • If you share your screen to engage or illustrate, include a lot more pictures than text – that way you’re entertaining, not teaching!
  • Present to ONE person, not a group. Even though you’re aware you’re talking to dozens or hundreds, speak to just one.

Donor Webinar Fail #2: The donors don’t know why they’re there

When people don’t know the purpose of the webinar, they often have trouble following. They get bored, distracted, and are more likely to sign off before the end. They’re also less likely to attend in the first place if they don’t understand the purpose.

Your first step is to define the purpose of the webinar for yourself. It’s easy for different people in your organization to have different visions for the same webinar. This is guaranteed to lead to a confusing and incoherent experience. So define it, and put it in writing. Make sure absolutely everyone on your staff who’s involved knows and understands the purpose. 

The most common purposes are thanking and reporting back, making an ask, or showing the donors love by serving them in some way.

The other part of making sure donors know why they are at your webinar is having a robust invitation and sign-up process. That might include:

  • Email Invitation. At least two of them. 
  • Phone calls for those you most want to attend.
  • Registration email that generates a meeting request and link to the webinar, along with instructions and expectations for what will happen.
  • Reminder series with emails going out 24 hours before and 1-3 hours before.

Donor Webinar Fail #3: Technical problems

We’ve all experienced a webinar that spends the first few minutes on audio or other problems. It really tests your patience and is stressful for you. 

Here are the main things to keep your webinar trouble-free and on-track:

  • Use professional webinar software — not the free version. The cost is well worth it.
  • Make sure everyone who is presenting has a fast and reliable internet connection.
  • Don’t make it a meeting — make it a webinar, which gives you more control of the experience. (I recommend Zoom for reliability and ease, but there are other good programs too.)
  • If you plan to show video, make sure you know the right settings for your audience to see and hear it.
  • The host should use two screens — one displaying what all participants will see, and another for the controls you need.
  • Use nice backgrounds, but don’t use a fake Zoom background unless you have a greenscreen. 
  • Try and get presenters to have similar proportions – with their heads more or less the same size.
  • Kids, pets, movement in the background – not so bad. They can create nice human moments. But a barking dog who won’t stop – naughty dog!
  • Test and practice everything! Make sure you know how it works to pass control of the screen to different presenters. 

No matter how much you prepare, your webinar won’t be perfect! That’s okay. It just needs to be a good experience for your donors — minimal glitches, interesting, engaging, maybe even fun. Perfection is not required.

Donor Webinar Fail #4: Lack of follow-up

No matter how great an experience your donor webinar is, it doesn’t really get the job done unless there’s good follow-up. In fact, good follow-up is more important to success than the webinar itself.

Build your follow-up plan before the webinar. If you start thinking about it after you’re done, you’ll quickly get overwhelmed and a lot of necessary things won’t happen.

Keep your post-webinar plan simple but include these elements for donors:

  • Immediately after: Thank you for attending and feedback request.
  • If the purpose of the webinar was to raise funds, have a series of asks ready to go.
  • Make sure each donor who attended gets a note in their record that they attended.

Contact all donors by email, but reach out to some by phone, face-to-face meetings, or one on one video meetings — depending on the value of the donor.

You now have some great tips for YOUR next donor webinar. But the best tip is:
* Take the step and do the webinar!

Want some one-on-one help building powerful webinars for your donors? Schedule a free 25-minute call with Fundraisingologist Sean Triner. He’ll give you great free advice and help you identify your best path forward. Click here to book your call.

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