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AFP's First Digital Social Hour: April 8, 2020

Written by Molly Kemper

Seventeen curious AFP Members joined the first-ever digital social hour put on by the Santa Barbara-Ventura Counties Chapter of AFP. Most of the hour was spent giving each attendee space to share what has changed or evolved at their organizations and what, if any, fundraising activities were seeing success. Overwhelmingly (and not surprisingly!), members shared that their teams have been pushed headlong into the digital space, bolstering their social media presence and increasing their virtual options with tours, shows, interviews, and donor recognition all taking place online. Most members felt that their donors are savvy and committed enough to continue supporting their efforts even during the global health crisis, though some organizations that rely on foot-traffic are understandably hurting the most. 

Here are a few successful ideas for digital content:

- Digital tours of gallery space or facility grounds
- Donor features where they share their home or studio space, particularly if they have an interesting art collection or skill to share
- Archival facts and photos
- Sharing content, events, or footage from similar organizations 

Some other observations about donor behavior:

- People are still giving! You can present a case for support and ask for major gifts via online platforms; in fact, we must in order to meet people where they are. Social distancing is respectful.
- People are picking up their phones! Most people are home with less going on, so now is an ok time to pick up the phone and make a connection.
- Learning new ways to connect online is a fun and genuine way to connect with older donors.
- Organizations that previously invested time in cultivating relationships are having an easier time staying connected to their nearest and dearest. It is an important lesson for us to take from this experience.

A few other comments from the discussion:

- The recent challenges have exposed many organizations’ weak spots, particularly concerning operating expenses. Unrestricted funds are needed now more than ever!
- Keep telling your stories! Explain to donors what you CAN do during this time, and why their partnership is important to accomplishing those tasks.
- Employers everywhere are looking at “accessibility” in a new way. Previously, making concessions for disabilities or childcare needs were “too difficult” and now that necessity requires these concessions, it doesn’t seem to be too difficult after all. 
- Now is a great time to catch up on projects, especially database clean up.