Even before I reported on the International Fundraising Conference online virtual event earlier this week, I’d been thinking of innovative ways in which broadband, the power of the Web and today’s software platforms can be used to build donor/member loyalty.

Few dispute that involvement and engagement on the part of donors with the organizations they support is a key driver in the “loyalty” equation. And there’s a range of tools – newsletters, online social networking, surveys, meet-ups, online chats, postal mail, telephone briefings, meetings, webcasts, and opportunities for volunteering – that can heighten the sense and reality of true engagement.

One of the limitations of all these channels is the human imagination. Some folks just can’t get their heads and heart into an organization unless they have a vision of the organization itself – its offices, its leadership, its staff and volunteers and, of course, the beneficiaries of the organization’s mission.

One of the most interesting lines of pursuit in focus groups we’ve done over the years is to ask participants to envision and describe the offices of an organization. While few, if any, have ever actually seen the offices and personnel of groups they support, the question sparks a flurry of intense speculation and yields surprisingly valuable insights.

So, while exploring the field of Virtual Conventions/Conferences I also began thinking about the potential benefits of The Virtual Nonprofit Headquarters, The Virtual Campaign Office and the Virtual Field Office, not to mention The Virtual Annual Meeting.

I for one would like to wander through (click my way through?) the offices of my favorite cause, meet the executive director and the program people, browse the shelves of their library, and listen to the speaker they brought in for lunch. And maybe I’d even ask some questions or find out how I could do more to help.

Well, all that is of course possible. Here are some links that will help spur your imagination:

1) MarketingProfs, a source of rich insight into trends and techniques in commercial marketing, is now preparing for an Annual Meeting/Expo — Marketing Profs virtual demo shows how they’re going about lining up sponsors, how they describe the ‘physical’ location and how the whole thing will work.

2) InExpo is a company that provides a range of platforms for ‘virtual’ events in simulated real world environments. Virtual booths. Virtual symposia. Virtual offices. Check out their online demo by clicking here.

3) Unisfair is another venture tackling the virtual event space. You can take a tour of what they offer. Also, check out an article by their VP for Marketing on some of the marketing (fundraising) advantages of these events.

4) For a “pro” and “con” summary of why – or why not – virtual events are the future, check out this piece from Business Week.

Anyone in Agitator World planning a virtual event or a virtual office? Please share.

Roger

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This article was posted in: Communications, Donor retention / loyalty / commitment, Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing.
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