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11 Ideas To Combat Zoom Fatigue At Your Nonprofit

Candace Cody
Candace Cody

“Am I on mute?” 

“Can you hear me?” 

“Your camera isn’t working, maybe try logging back in?”

These statements are the Zoom soundtrack to our virtual lives. What we once thought was a short-term fix has now carried on for over a year. While we’re grateful for the technology during a worldwide pandemic, it does come with it’s own set of challenges.

Zoom fatigue is a real issue for organizations and businesses across the country. 

What happens when you don’t fight the Zoom fatigue (or whatever application you’re using to video chat!) can have detrimental effects on your organization.

You want both your staff and donors to be highly invested in your cause but when long hours of meetings and virtual fatigue set in, it doesn’t matter how passionate your donors and staff are. They’ll struggle to stay focused on the bottom line. 

While running a virtual meeting can be an effective way to engage volunteers, staff and donors, there are times to jump into the virtual world of Zoom and times to help fight fatigue.

Check out some great options below to help your staff and donors navigate the virtual world and fight the Zoom fatigue head-on. 

How To Combat Zoom Fatigue For Your Nonprofit Staff:

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Your staff are some of the most dedicated people you know. 

They show up for you day in and day out, and when the pandemic hit, they wholeheartedly changed their in-person coffee chats for virtual catch-ups and meetings galore. 

But they’re tired. We’re all tired. 

Although we probably won’t be able to stop having virtual meetings anytime soon, there are some steps you can take to help reduce the impact on their mental and physical health to prevent burnout. Check out a few ideas below. 

1. Implement “No Meeting” Days

It’s like a field trip for adults. For those who have meetings constantly, it’s a wild, almost unimaginable thought. “A day with no meetings?! Unheard of!” The Zoom fatigue is real and your staff could use a break from strained eyes, staring into a camera all day and listening with headphones. 

So, offer an entire day where no one has a meeting. This could be a few times a month or even weekly, depending on the needs of your organization. We dare you to suggest this during the next staff meeting and watch as their eyes light up! 

2. Encourage Employees to Block Out “No Meeting” Time

Each member of your staff will have a different number of Zoom calls in a given week, and a different tolerance for them. If they need to, let your staff know that they can block out time and thus control how many meetings they get invited to in a week.

Sometimes, it’s important to block time so that you have time to actually complete work. This also helps avoid staff burnout, because it prevents your staff from trying to complete work after hours.

3. Before Scheduling A Meeting, Ask Yourself This Question

“Can this meeting be replaced by an email?” If the answer is yes, get to typing! You have the power to set the standard throughout the organization. 

Empower your staff and employees to take charge of their schedules and question if they think something should be an email instead of a Zoom call, as well. While it sounds uncomfortable at first, if you kindly offer up that something can be resolved via email due to busy schedules, the receiving end will most likely gratefully agree. 

4. Choose Recurring Meetings Over Occasional Ones 

Recurring meetings are easier to get through because we anticipate them and are emotionally ready to participate. But occasional meetings can throw us off of our routines and make us feel tired or unmotivated to participate. Even worse, pop-up meetings can disrupt an entire day. When scheduling an occasional meeting, ask yourself whether or not the content can be covered in the next recurring meeting. 

5. Make An Agenda, And Stick To It!

It’s important to identify what the goal of the meeting is and then actually stay on track to make sure it’s accomplished. That way, the meeting doesn’t have to run over time or get extended to a follow-up meeting.

If you feel the meeting getting off track, don’t be afraid to take back control by putting a stop to a conversation that is off topic. If the topic is important, offer a follow-up scenario where the issue can be discussed. 

6. Be Mindful Of The Time

We’ve entered a new age of issues in the stay-at-home workplace: back-to-back meetings. Try to finish a few minutes early so that people can have time to run to the restroom or refill water before moving on to the next meetings — consider automatically having 30-minute meetings end at :25 or :55 and hour-long meetings end at :50 so that people have a chance to breathe between them (most calendar solutions will allow you to make this an organization-wide setting). 

And one other thing: Stick. To. The. Point! Your meetings should be as concise as possible while still achieving what you set out to cover during the meeting. If for any reason your meeting is looking like it might run over on time, schedule a follow-up with only the most vital members to the conversation.

7. Add “Optional Meeting” To Your Vocabulary

You already know that not every meeting seems like it’s vital to the success of your organization. If you can’t fully cut out meetings, ask yourself who on the team could sit in and take notes so that your entire team doesn’t need to sit in on every single meeting. We promise you, your team will thank you! 

If you decide to make meetings optional for some participants, there are still ways to keep them informed. Hit record on the meeting so that you can send it out later for those who couldn’t attend. That way, your staff can watch it on their own time when they aren’t in back-to-back meetings. 

How to Combat Zoom Fatigue For Your Nonprofit Donors:

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Often, we don’t think of our donors as potentially being virtually drained since we don’t work with them — but remember that our donors are just like us. 

They may be coming from a full day of Zoom calls before they ever make it to your meeting, and they’ve been doing it for months just like us. Check out some ways to make sure you’re putting your donors first and helping them beat virtual fatigue. 

8. Ask Them What They Prefer

This is something so simple, yet so many don’t take the time to do it: taking the time to ask your donors what they prefer. These are some of your biggest advocates, and it’s important to cater to their needs.

Maybe your donors aren’t feeling the Zoom fatigue at all because they don’t often have social interactions, and they’re looking forward to seeing you on camera. Others will be overwhelmed and welcome a phone call instead. If you don’t know, simply ask! 

9. Pick Up the Phone Or Write An Email 

Sometimes you might need to discuss something important, but not everyone likes to be on video when they’re at home. Some of your donors may not have a dedicated office space or may be watching kids or grandkids. 

Ask your donors if they’d be okay with a phone call instead of a Zoom. Explain that they’ll be able to walk around or get outside while you chat. Plus, you can do the same! Remember that  not everything has to be a call. Sometimes even an email thread will suffice. 

While it’s important to establish lasting connections, your donors may end up thanking you in the long run for understanding that not every conversation needs to be a Zoom call. It’ll place more importance on the calls that you decide to have over video.  

10. Use Lights, Camera… and Pre-Recorded Action!

Meetings with donors are a great opportunity to provide an update on what your organization has been able to accomplish with the help of their gifts. While in-person lunches or drop-ins used to be the norm, virtual has taken over. 

Instead of pressuring them to sit through a Zoom meeting, pre-record your update and send it to them. That way, they can sit down and watch on their time. 

This also works well for virtual events, where you can live-stream for those that want to attend live, but also send the recording to registrants so those that didn’t attend can still participate on their own time.

Provide a clear way for your donors to contact you if they have questions or comments about the pre-recorded material. Let them know that they can call or email you to provide any and all feedback. 

11. Send Good Old-Fashioned Snail Mail 

Just because we’re virtual right now doesn’t mean you can’t show up for your donors… sort of. Snail mail can be a great reminder that just because your organization is virtual right now, it won’t be forever. Give your donors something tangible to represent your work in the real world. 

Some examples of physical mailers you could send include:

  • A printed article of your organization in the news
  • your annual report with a personal note
  • a signed photo of the staff from zoom
  • a card with a message written from staff 
  • a photo magnet (Which keeps you top of mind!)
  • A coupon for a face-to-face catch-up once it’s safe

While Zoom fatigue is real, there is still a time and place to have meetings with cameras on to see all of the smiling faces. If you’re still looking to make working remotely work better for your organization, check out this guide to help! Remember to check in with both your staff and donors, because we’re collectively trying to navigate this new world, even a year later.

Guest post by Tatiana Morand, SEO Manager for Wild Apricot. Wild Apricot is the top-rated membership management software for small organizations.

When she’s not creating content to help organizations with their engagement and growth, you can find her exploring Toronto’s best cafes or working on her fantasy novel.

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