The Perfect Deck for Zoom Cultivation

Read Time: 3 minutes

Smiling businessman holding video call with donors/clients/partners

The state of the world has made us want to connect with more of you, more often. For the rest of 2020, the Campbell & Company Communications team is sharing a new article every week that explores a topic in case development and fundraising communications, drawn from our work.

Whether it’s thinking about how to approach fundraising communications against the backdrop of current events or tackling an evergreen challenge we see time and time again in nonprofits across the sector, these articles focus on practical tips to empower fundraising leaders in their day-to-day work. Subscribe to the series here.


Whatever your fundraising plans for 2020 were, they probably didn’t involve this much videoconferencing. Today, many nonprofits are struggling with how best to continue cultivating and developing their most valuable donor relationships without in-person contacts…yet the show must go on!

That’s why Cassie Carter and I hosted this free webinar: Cultivating Major Gift Prospects Over Zoom. Check it out to find a range of examples and best practices for successful cultivation in the videoconferencing age, including using video for large-group donor events, small-group salons, and individual cultivation.

What all of these Zoom cultivation scenarios have in common is that they benefit mightily from a high-quality, versatile case presentation deck.

We’ve been fans of this format for years, and most of our client engagements begin with developing the case in deck format instead of a traditional narrative case statement—but now, it’s nearly essential for any organization that wants to keep engaging its high-value prospects over the next year.

So what kind of deck do you need, and how do you go about developing one?

Keep it short.

Over videoconferencing, it’s extra important that we lean toward discussion/conversation and not exhaust our audience with every possible detail.

For the greatest versatility, you’re looking for a deck that allows you to introduce the core content of your case for support in under 10 minutes, with the option to cut down to 5 minutes by pulling out just the most important slides.

For most organizations, that’s going to mean 15 slides or less including the cover, section title slides, and final Q&A slides. And if you want to hit your timing, you have to practice with a timer.

Build slides around clear core messages.

Every slide should have one clear message that jumps out at you, with everything else—photography, copy/bullets, graphics—clearly supporting that message.

This not only makes your messages unmissable for the audience; it also helps your presenter stay on track. If your case has a lot of supporting detail that you want to have available, put it in the Notes section and know that you can expand on anything a donor asks you about—but keep the on-slide content focused on core messages.

Make it visually dynamic.

It’s much harder to hold someone’s attention over video than it is in person, so it helps to give them something engaging to look at.

Balance big, clear core messages with photography, graphic elements, concise supporting copy/bullet points, and white space. If at all possible, engage a professional designer—but a well-balanced layout using your basic branded template is fine too.

Use normal-person language.

Granted, we always say that. But using natural, conversational language that articulates your point clearly and directly is all the more important when you have technological distance between you and the audience.

An overly formal presentation with language that feels scripted and robotic, mediated through a voice technology that compresses much of the natural dynamism of speech, delivered to an audience who can zone out and check their email without you knowing…is a perfect recipe to accomplish nothing. If you want real human engagement, you have to talk to them like a real human.

As it happens, these principles are best practices for in-person presentations as well—but in-person presentations are all about the energy in the room, and an outstanding presenter with great presence can easily succeed with a less-than-optimized deck.

Over video, you have none of your in-person presence and energy working for you, so the quality of your deck becomes much more important.


Want to see an example? Check out the webinar, where we walk through a designed, fourteen-slide deck that puts these principles into practice!

And if all of this seems like too much work, just focus on the basics: a five-slide deck, designed or not, that delivers your most important messages in the clearest possible language. You’ll be surprised how many donor situations that can support, and how much your donor-facing volunteers and staff will appreciate having it.