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July 1, 2020
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August 19, 2020

More than Zoom: Building Donor Relationships in Virtual Times

 “Zoom fatigue” is real.

We’ve been at this for over four months and while it’s still a gift to be able to have this form of communication so that we can see each other in remote times, it’s not easy on the body or the soul.

We are hearing about Zoom fatigue from donors, too. Online webinars and happy hours are lagging in attendance and many of our donors are opting for a call or receiving something in writing.

Some of this could be that it’s the summer – a notoriously challenging time to get a donor’s attention.

But what about the donor cultivation and stewardship that many of us normally do this time of year? How can make personal connections with donors beyond the online meeting or webinar?

Here are some ideas I’ve had and have gleaned from others:

Surveys: This does not have to be a big, statistical effort, but it’s more of a qualitative survey, asking donors about their communication preferences, ways they want to engage, and their thoughts on your organization’s work. We did a survey earlier in the pandemic and saw way more response than I ever thought we would. The information has been very helpful in our thinking about year-end messaging.

Case discussions: We’re working on our case for giving right now and we’re using our draft to engage middle donors in conversation on the telephone (or Zoom if they want to). But, we are also offering for them to just read it and send us comments. Super helpful to get their viewpoint and advice!

Peer-to-peer: Some of the best donor interactions we have had this summer are peer-to-peer emails. We’ve been asking close-in donors, board members, and former board members to reach out to their networks to engage others in conversation and giving. It’s been fun for them because they can re-connect with people that may not have seen or heard from in the pandemic. The connection in many cases has either led to a conversation with us or a request for more information on our work.

Videos: While many of us are struggling with the two-way pressure of Zoom, video is a good one-way look into your organization’s work and to recognize the impact that your donor’s money has had. This could be anything from a short interview with someone working on the front lines to a personalized “tour” of your facility, exhibit, or COVID operations. I’m not talking about top quality, staged videos, but more of a do-it-yourself piece that communicates impact in a personal way.

Handwritten notes and photos: My favorite! I do love a handwritten card and use them to communicate thanks and more. I’ve taken to buying handmade cards from a local artist of scenes of natural beauty in Colorado. Donors remember and keep them kind of like a gift. Maybe your organization can create its own set of cards with photos from your work. Or maybe it’s an online photo album or slide show that you can send to a donor.

Here in Colorado, I know that many donors are open to taking a socially-distanced hike or meeting outside on a patio. If you know your donors well enough, you might consider that, too.

And finally, let’s acknowledge that Zoom meetings are great if used for the right circumstances and with the right set up. Be sure to have an agenda, a plan for facilitation, and a timeline – all so that people know what to expect. Connecting donors with each other, as well as with your organization, is a good way to go, too.

Zoom fatigue? It’s a real thing for you and your donors. Consider some other ideas so that you both come into the giving season refreshed and inspired.


  1. Great thoughts, thanks Leslie! We love your insights…

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