virtual nonprofit site visits

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, which placed restrictions on meeting in person, nonprofit headquarter site visits mainly entailed giving a visitor a tour of your nonprofit’s facilities. 

Usually, that looked something like this: You took them on a walk to give them a good look at your day-to-day operations and shared more about your mission and your work. The visitor enjoyed seeing the services described in your marketing and fundraising materials. The tour consumed most of the time available for the visit, with a few minutes left over for questions.

Now, however, most site visits are taking place virtually via tools like Zoom. That means the format has changed considerably. 

Two things to remember about virtual nonprofit site visits

When thinking about virtual site visits, keep these two things in mind. 

First, remember that visitors don’t usually request on-site meetings unless they’re interested in your nonprofit. This means they’re usually already sold on your mission and work. They’ve most likely requested a visit because they want to meet the CEO or program director or someone else in person, chat with the people you serve (if possible), and bring back positive impressions to share with others. This is great news! You already have their interest and don’t have to convince them to care. 

Second, from the moment your virtual site tour begins, you’re essentially putting on a show. That means you need to stage it well. 

How to stage your virtual nonprofit site visit

Here are three things to review when staging your virtual nonprofit site visit.

Consider your video’s background. Rather than transmitting from your home office, place yourself instead in the foreground of the actual location of your program site. That’s more dramatic and appealing for the viewer. 

If this isn’t possible, use a strategic photograph of your program site as a virtual backdrop. Take Pathlight HOME, an innovative Florida nonprofit, as an example. The organization turns cast-off motels into supportive housing. They staged a Zoom visit for a funding opportunity using a virtual background photo of a renovated commercial kitchen, which serves as a vocational training site for constituents hoping to improve their culinary skills. They became a finalist because of that staging and are now waiting for the final news.

Write a tightly crafted script—and rehearse it. Prepare a brief, 10-minute script about your nonprofit, your programs, and your outcomes. Rehearse the script so you know how long it takes you to get through it. You should also pay attention to parts that trip you or a listener up and make adjustments accordingly. 

Include a powerful testimony from someone your nonprofit serves. Few things are more appealing to a potential donor than a successful constituent story. Find someone who would be willing to talk about how one of your programs helped them. Then, help them craft a script or outline that they can use so their testimony is cohesive and effective. As you did, work with them so they can rehearse what they’re going to say. You can also record this testimony and play it for your site visitor if that’s easier. 

Best practices still apply

Of course, many of the best practices of traditional site visits carry over to the virtual visits. Be sure to have a copy of the grant proposal and budget or relevant information on hand so that you can respond if programmatic or financial questions arise. You should also be ready to email the documents to the funder or donor or answer any additional questions they have as soon as the visit is over. 

In your follow-up email to them, thank them for taking time to visit your nonprofit and learn about your work.

Most importantly, don’t stress about the change in format! Your site visitors are looking forward to hearing more from you so let that take some of the pressure off of putting together your visit. 

This post was written by Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA and Sheldon Bart.

Nonprofit Sustainability

Laurence Pagnoni, MPA
Laurence Pagnoni, MPA, is chairman of LAPA Fundraising, serving nonprofits throughout the U.S. and Europe. He is author of "The Nonprofit Fundraising Solution," the first book on fundraising ever published by the American Management Association, as well as “Fundraising 401: Masterclasses in Nonprofit Fundraising That Would Make Peter Drucker Proud.”