Are you thinking about ways to engage your constituents? Have you considered a town hall?

It’s an election season so there are lots of “town halls” featuring politicians. There are even websites dedicated to helping people find town hall meetings near them like the Town Hall Project.

Town Halls can be a great way for politicians to meet their constituents, to hear from them, and to learn what’s on their minds. Politicians can also work during those meetings—which aren’t necessarily in “town halls”—to educate the public, to share their point of view, tout their accomplishments, and promote their agendas and campaigns.

But politicians aren’t the only ones who can effectively use them.

Last fall, I attended a virtual town hall of a group I’m a part of—Advanced Certified Fundraising Executives (ACFRE’s). ACFRE’s are a small group of fundraising professionals from around the world who have successfully gone through a lengthy and rigorous credentialing process that entails testing and the documentation of professional results, skills, and knowledge, as well as a clear commitment to community service and ethics.

The town hall I attended was virtual. It was a great experience. ACFRE’s are spread out geographically. There are only 112 of us around the world. The group of us were invited to gather electronically, through a Zoom call, to listen to the group’s president, to hear presentations on upcoming initiatives, to offer feedback on proposed changes, and to ask questions.  At the end of the call, even though I’m a newer ACFRE (I’m #111!), I felt more connected to the group, more informed and more excited about its future.

Think about it:  aren’t these the ways that you want your constituents to feel informed, connected, excited and ready to take action?

This week, The Chronicle of Philanthropy has an article on how to host a telephone town hall. Technology exists to phone supporters, ask them to hold for a town hall meeting, and then connects them into a conference call-like town hall. The Chronicle’s article reports on the Ocean Conservancy’s use of these virtual phone meetings as both a fundraising strategy (push 7 at the end of the call to donate) and as an engagement tactic.

Town Halls can be great ways to engage your donors if:

  • Your organization’s constituents are geographically dispersed
  • You’re a membership organization
  • You have important changes, announcements, or updates to offer
  • You want to hear reaction to proposed changes
  • You don’t want to lose touch between events, activities, or meetings

Maybe you’re in the midst of building a new building – give your supporters a virtual tour and update on the campaign. Maybe you’re an organization that funds medical research – invite a researcher to share new findings. Maybe you’re an arts organization – invite the artists, performers, or conductor to share behind the scenes reasons for excitement.

In the fundraising cycle, you need to identify donors, engage or cultivate them, solicit, and thank. A Town Hall can be a great way to cultivate and engage. Webinar-type virtual technology can make it affordable and easy for your organization to host a successful town hall meeting. During this election year, let’s take a lesson from politicians and gather our supporters for a “town hall.”

Picture: Used with permission.

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