Episode 20: Lynda Harwood Compton – Using Virtual Project Visits to connect and inspire

If you’d like to watch the full film plus extensive notes we created with Lynda, including the approach that has helped her generate three major gifts in the last two weeks in spite of everything else that’s going on, check out the our online training and inspiration resource the Bright Spot Club.

You get immediate access to more than 35 training bundles, including cutting edge strategies for responding to fundraising during this pandemic, as well as twice weekly coaching calls.

Episode Notes

Clearly one implication of the virtual lockdown is that you can’t meet your supporters for the next few months. So if you’re wondering how on earth you’re going to continue to develop relationships and inspire major and mid-level donors, companies and other key influencers, then I think you’re going to find today’s episode really helpful.

In this episode Rob Woods talks to the innovative major gifts fundraiser Lynda Harwood Compton from Animals Asia, to find out what she’s learned about organising virtual project visits for her supporters. In November 2019 Lynda organised a webinar for 30 major donors as a virtual project visit, which she mentioned during my interview in Episode 13. She’s run three more events since then, and they are proving a crucial way to keep her supporters inspired during the pandemic, so Rob wanted to spend a whole episode to properly understand her approach – these ideas are now more relevant than ever to charities.

In the interview, Lynda explains the strategy, how she helps her service delivery colleagues prepare to succeed, and several of the benefits to organising these events.

We hope you find this episode helpful. If you’d like to get in touch or share it so other people can benefit, we’d be really grateful. We are both active on Linked In and our twitter names are @LatchLynda and @woods_rob.

Takeaways from my conversation with Lynda

  • THE NEW PROJECT VISIT – With the urgent need to share information about the charities’ response to the coronavirus, Animals Asia have found these virtual project visits invaluable. When we can no longer meet donors informally or at events, an attractive on-line event has become very valuable to help steward and inspire.
  • EXISTING DONORS ATTEND – Take-up from donors on three of the four webinars has been excellent, with an overwhelmingly positive response from donors.
  • STRUCTURE – The first half of these events has been a talk about the Bear Sanctuary. The second half has been a question and answer session between donors and the expert.
  • STEWARDSHIP OBJECTIVE – Lynda does include a very soft financial ask in the webinar, but the objective is more to steward existing donors, and lead to further (virtual) conversations, rather than to generate funds (in the same way that the most effective use of live meetings during normal times, is not to make blanket, unspecific asks, but to inspire people to meet you for follow up meetings where you can tailor the chance for each person to give at the right level and to the right issue.
  • GENERATE VIRTUAL COFFEE MEETINGS – Lynda has found these events very helpful for generating new conversations with supporters. For instance, one supporter who she had struggled to secure a coffee meeting with for 18 months, has confirmed she’s now really keen to (virtually) meet Lynda following the webinar.
  • SPECIFIC ROLES – When delivering these events, Animals Asia involve 4 staff – Lynda who chairs them; the front-line worker who delivers / manages the service; one person to manage the chat box to do with content; one person to handle other challenges eg to do with technology.
  • LESS RESOURCE – If you have less resource, you don’t need all four, but we recommend that if possible the event will be better and less stressful if there are three of you, so that you if you’re chairing the event you are not also trying to handle the tech and chat box on your own.
  • WHAT DONORS WANT – When preparing for the webinar, be sure to help your colleague who works on the front line understand what your donors are most likely to be interested in. (ie probably the challenges faced by your beneficiaries; what you do to help them; and crucially, how you know it works, ie they are helped.
  • PRACTICE PLENTY – It’s so important to do run-throughs. Lynda makes these as realistic as possible, ie she has her colleagues listen in and ask questions for her and her service delivery colleague to handle.
  • FEED BACK – Directly after the event she receives lots of positive feedback so sends all that straight to her colleagues who have helped make it happen.
  • BOOSTED MORALE – One unexpected benefit has been increased morale in her service delivery colleagues who have really appreciated and learned from this unprecedented contact with donors who hold them in high esteem.
  • SMASHED SILOS – Another side benefit has been improved mutual understanding and respect between teams. For example, the service delivery team requested a webinar with the fundraising team to better understand what they do.
  • JUST START SOMEWHERE – If you’ve not done something like this before, its OK to start small. Invite a few donors. Learn and find a way to improve it.


‘As soon as our donors get the invite, they’re getting in touch because I’ve asked them if they’ve got any questions before hand…so it’s already helping create more interaction even before the webinar happens.’

Lynda Harwood Compton

‘At the end of the webinar, pretty much every single donor emailed us to say how much they enjoyed it and appreciated us taking the time to bring the sanctuary to them.’

Lynda Harwood Compton

‘My approach is to have as many virtual cups of coffee as possible…we can’t do face to face events or meetings, but there are so many other things we can do.’

Lynda Harwood Compton

Further Resources

If you found this helpful, why not also check out Episode 13 with Lynda, which we recorded after her first, pilot webinar, but includes several other topics as well.

Also, for encouragement and technique in terms of having more conversations with donors / partners at this crucial time, do check out Episode 19 – How to inspire supporters in spite of the pandemic – with the always-inspiring Ben Swart. In the 5 days since releasing it, we’ve had lots of feedback from people who’ve already told us its has helped them be braver and more confident in their fundraising.

Want more in depth training resources and twice-weekly coaching?

If you’d like to watch the full film plus extensive notes we created with Lynda, including the approach that has helped her generate three major gifts in the last two weeks in spite of everything else that’s going on, check out the our online training and inspiration resource the Bright Spot Club.