Erin Koppel

Chief Strategy Officer, Tessitura Network

Be where your donors are


3 min

Don’t let physical distance get in the way of maintaining your crucial relationships.

Relational fundraising in the time of physical distancing is ultimately about reinforcing your connection with donors while physically apart from them. As I mentioned in my previous post, using webcams with donors works.

Here are four tips to help you and your organization make the transition smoothly.

1) Webcamming is a skill.

Think of virtual meetings as a skill to add to your toolkit. You can do it! Find a colleague and rehearse getting a meeting going and being comfortable with the tech involved. Since you’re working from home, accept that you are now your own tech support person. (And if you want more great tips on working from home from my colleagues at Tessitura, find them here and here.)

2) Tech prep your leadership.

Walk through with organizational leadership the same steps you took to get comfortable with your own tech. Recognize that donors too are getting used to the new technology, and offer to walk them through it, too. That lays the groundwork for the tech to disappear and everyone to connect when the time comes.

3) Take your visits virtual.

I literally shudder when thinking of being physically apart from donors and trying to connect, so I can only imagine your reaction! Take a minute and wrap your mind around this. Best practices for virtual visits still include briefing your organizational leadership on what is important to the donor, and making sure key messages are created and reviewed beforehand. And even now, success is still defined as renewed connection and deepened engagement.

4) Embrace authenticity.

Webcams offer the opportunity for a unique glimpse of real life, and everyone is thirsty for authentic connection right now. What do you notice in the video behind your donor? Go ahead and ask about it. For instance, while talking with a colleague yesterday I noticed that there is now a music stand in her home office. She has been playing her viola for stress relief. I told her my 14-year old son has been playing the drums in the basement. And we laughed — not only because I’m clearly getting the short end of the stick here, but because it was a welcome moment of connection.

Fundraising is a noble profession, with a long history of knitting together the fabric of society by bringing needed support to important causes. Accepting this suspension of in-person visits, and leaning into the virtual, represents a milestone for all of us. We’ve got this!

•.    •.    •

One quick thing before I’m back with another post —

You may have noticed I’ve updated this series title to Relational Fundraising in the time of Physical Distance. In a strictly fundraising context, I kept feeling like “social distance” was an oxymoron. When I reflected on this further, I realized that the arts and culture sector itself is brilliantly continuing social interaction with audiences when these circumstances mean we can’t share the same physical space. So, invoking author’s privilege for the first time in my life, we changed the title.

Be well, friends. Have anything you want to talk to me about? Email me or find me on Twitter at @erinkoppel3.


Top photo by Madison Yocum from Unsplash


Arts & Culture





Erin Koppel

Erin Lively Koppel

Chief Strategy Officer
Tessitura Network

Erin (she/her) works to translate Tessitura’s vision of a day when every human in every community we serve has arts and culture as a meaningful part of their life into a clear strategic plan.

As Chief Strategy Officer, she is responsible for clarifying this vision, creating shared alignment around it, and driving the change effort. Of critical importance is ensuring the decisions being made are aligned with the strategy and creating the desired results. 

In addition to her role as Chief Strategy Officer, Erin leads Tessitura’s Professional Services group, which seeks to align the business of Tessitura members with a holistic use of our technologies. She directs this highly skilled team of industry experts to help organizations create revenue-generating strategies, gain meaningful business insight, and maximize their use of CRM to connect audiences to their mission.

Erin’s background includes nearly twenty years fundraising for Lyric Opera of Chicago (one of North America’s largest opera companies), where she directed multi-million-dollar fundraising campaigns and led major initiatives. She later worked in consulting, where she honed her ability to develop and critique strategy. Erin is a highly sought-after conference speaker and seasoned executive adept at strategy formation and execution, focusing an organization on what needs to be done today, as well as planning for tomorrow. She resides in Bolingbrook, Illinois, southwest of Chicago.

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