President's Message

Let's talk about the importance of virtual communication.

Several years ago I was having a serious conversation with a board member via email. To lighten up the mood I decided to include a smiley face at the end of a sentence. A few minutes after hitting send I got a message from the board member, and she was very upset. Trying to figure out what triggered the emotional response from the board member, I re-read my email. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, I decided to give her a call. No matter how hard we tried we could not get on the same page as to what the problem was. Finally, we both pulled up the email and read it to each other over the phone. As an administrator of a local hospital, she was getting her emails to read to her via Blue tooth. The problem was that the smiley face I added to a sentence of the email was translated by her blue tooth device as haha! This made it seem that I was making light of a serious subject.

I have often wondered if it is possible to communicate virtually too much and not enough at the same time. Let me explain. While we transition to working remotely, the way team members communicate has changed. This is good, and can also be bad. Virtual communication is good in the fact that it allows you to provide constant updates to your employees. The downside is that virtual communication can also be one-sided and overwhelming. Need proof? Just take a look at the number of emails in your inbox. How about all of the overwhelming number of online meetings?

An important part of managing remote teams is managing the amount and method of your virtual communication.

While our email boxes are flowing over, and our Zoom meetings are overwhelming, we still may not be communicating enough in the right way. Without water-cooler, lunch, or cubicle chats, it is easier to misunderstand each other. Another thing to consider about being physically distant from your team is that employees' emotional needs may not be met.

An important part of effective visual communication is ensuring that your employees feel heard and their emotional needs are met. This can be done through one-to-one touch-points throughout the week to check on their well-being. It can also be accomplished by providing opportunities for your employees to feel heard during virtual meetings. One way this can be addressed is by limiting the size of your virtual meetings.

Effective virtual communication includes constantly communicating with your employees that you care about them. Are you communicating this enough to your employees?

Working virtually can cause employee anxiety. This anxiety may be caused by the change in your communication method or by the additional stresses of working from home during COVID-19. These stresses, if not addressed, can lead to decreased productivity or employee burn out. By focusing on your employee’s emotional health, you are ensuring that your employees will be able to continue their job of serving your clients. Here are a few ways you can help:

  • Communicate Frequently: This reduces anxiety and will help them to continue to do their job and serve your clients.
  • Share your plan of action with your employees: How will the changes impact them?
  • Clearly share your policies: Do your employees know your policies related to work from home and sick leave?
  • Discuss ways to adapt to change: How can you help your employees feel more comfortable during these changes?

Another part of virtual communication is monitoring the productivity of your team. This means having clear expectations, deliverables, and timeline.

It is important to manage virtual employee expectations, but not how or when they do their work.

While some virtual employees still may have the flexibility to work during a typical 8-5 workday, another may find their most productive time is from 12-8 pm. The exception is hourly employees with a work schedule that requires them to be physically available for a specific time frame. It is important to adjust your virtual communication and expectations on getting a response based on your needs and your employee's availability.

In a previous article, I wrote about how I was excited for things to go back to normal. The truth is that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we work and live. I don't know what the new "normal" will look like. But I do know that virtual communication will play an important part in the way we work in the future.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals has adapted their communication style to best meet the needs of all of our members through virtual webinars, virtual events, and virtual communication. Although we may not be able to be physically present with you, please know that we are there to support you virtually.

Yours in Fundraising,


Aaron G. Javener 

AFP President

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