Chat Is Where It’s At!

By Dan Campbell, Fundraising Auctioneer 

Remember all the times at your pre-Covid galas, when your audience was a bit too chatty and sometimes became a distraction to the program you worked so hard to put on? You probably just wanted to “SHUSH” them, but of course, this could backfire by alienating a potential donor, so you bite your tongue and hope someone nearby will keep them in line.

In the virtual gala season we are in, this chattiness is removed from the equation, or can it be that this former distraction can now be an asset to your fundraising program? Depending on the platform you use to stream your gala, you may have the ability to provide two-way communication with your guests, such as the chat feature available on YouTube Live or Zoom. These chat tools have become a valuable way to engage your audience and keep them connected for the hour or so program you have put together for virtual viewing.

Here are ways that the chat feature becomes an asset for your fundraising efforts:

Support: The first thing we fear is the potential of a donor not being able to consume the program as it was intended. Simple errors include issues like accidental self-mute, etc. There can be more complex issues such as program download requirements. We may assume everyone has a Zoom account, but the truth is they may not. The donor may not understand technology and may require quick support or else your donor may give up and disengage. The separate donor giving and bidding site may also be new to the donor, and understanding the logistics of two simultaneous platforms in use can be intimidating at first for some. USE your chat feature to provide proactive information about how to use these tools, offer a phone or email option in the chat area to help them offline. Having staff available for this support is crucial to your success!

Ambassadors: Once you have your guests online, the chat feature can afford you the opportunity to engage donors in dialogue and interactions that will connect them to your mission. Reinforcing messaging as it is delivered will generate connection to your cause. Every person reacts differently to messaging and how they consume and retain. Some people are visual for example, while others need their brains engaged in different ways to create the right level of energy for participation. The Ambassador role is one that requires knowledge of your mission and your program that evening, so they can compliment what donors are watching effectively.

Gamification: If you have ever watched a TV program at home, you know that we are often multi-tasking with our cell phone, a book or magazine and certainly with impromptu interruptions from kids or pets. These same distractions are likely occurring during your virtual program, so it is important to find ways to keep your audience engaged as fully as possible. Think how easy it is to walk away from a TV show for 5-10 minutes? Your donors could be missing the special appeal or the mission video! An effective way to keep your audience engaged is through the use of gamification. This approach utilizes some form of game that requires your audience to pay attention during your virtual event, such as how many times a word is mentioned during your program, or watching for special avatars that collectively solve a riddle if all put together. Put a prize at the end of the show for the winner of your game, and you will have a much higher engagement by your audience, guaranteed!

Use Chat to engage your audience proactively and purposefully, and it will pay dividends to your fundraising goals!