In today’s episode, we’re so happy to have Joanne Toller!
Joanne is with The Cause Specialists, and host of the Empowering Nonprofits podcast.
Joanne has been a professional fundraiser and non-profit marketer for over 25 years (she received her CFRE designation in 2010), and she has worked for hundreds of charities and on a variety of projects, both locally and internationally.
We brought her on the show to discuss the potential of the Metaverse for non-profits, as they can explore its vastness, use it to build loyalty and connection between generations, and even create a lasting impression in this new universe.
David Pisarek: Meta-what? Metaverse! And that’s what we’re talking about in this episode.
Welcome to the Non-profit Digital Success Podcast. I’m your host, David, and today I have Joanne Taller with me to talk about the Metaverse and how you can leverage it for your non-profit or charity.
Joanne is with The Cause Specialist and host of the Empowering Non-profits podcast. Joanne’s been a professional fundraiser and non-profit marketer for over 25 years, and she received her certified Fundraising Executive CFRE designation in 2010. She’s worked for hundreds of charities on a variety of projects locally and internationally.
Her passion is teaching. She’s taught many workshops and speaking engagements. And Joanne, it’s awesome to have you here on the podcast.
Joanne Toller: Meta-Hey!
David Pisarek: Are we in the Metaverse right now? I don’t know.
Joanne Toller: No, but it is so cool! I have an office in the Metaverse, and I have my desk and my computer and a whiteboard, and there are some amazing things that you can do with it. So I’m very excited to be talking about this.
David Pisarek: Awesome. So we should probably start by explaining what is the Metaverse.
Joanne Toller: Well, if you take online gaming and smash in social media and then maybe some concerts and events with an IMAX on steroids, you kind of have the Metaverse.
It is a virtual world at 360 degrees. I have gotten nauseous sometimes with the goggles on and doing some, you know, events or watching some movies and things like that on there. You have to see it to experience it.
David Pisarek: So it’s a VR world that you go into, and you’re wearing these goggles, and you are embedded in the tech.
Joanne Toller: You are wandering around in there, you’re meeting people, you’re having conversations, you’re going off into different worlds and doing different you can go and play games, you can attend a concert… I went to a comedy show the other night.
There are workspaces and meetings that you can attend, and just the possibilities are insane.
David Pisarek: We should have done this in the Metaverse and recorded it. We published this on YouTube, it’s a proper podcast, so it’s on Amazon and Apple and Google and Spotify and this and that and whatever, but, yeah, that would have been we should have thought about that one before.
Joanne Toller: It would have been because (especially with YouTube) I can invite you into my Meta office.
And even though I’m in the Metaverse, (so you’re going to see my avatar, and I have my full office there with my computer) you can come in almost like a zoom.
I have a computer screen in my office where you could have come in, or you can just get a pair of goggles and come on in, and then our two avatars would be sitting and having a meeting and having a conversation on the couch together.
David Pisarek: Amazing, right? Like the whole part of COVID where you couldn’t meet with people, you couldn’t be in person, you can be virtually in person with Zoom.
We’re recording this on Zoom right now, but you can be, I guess, virtually in person through the Metaverse.
Joanne Toller: It does feel a little bit more in person in the Metaverse. You can’t get facial expressions, but you can get gestures, and you’re sitting together on a couch, or I can reach over and shake your hand, and we could take selfies together in the Metaverse.
That was a neat trick when I learned how to take a selfie in the Metaverse.
David Pisarek: That’s awesome. All right, so what do people need to do to access the Metaverse?
Joanne Toller: The first thing is to get the hardware. You’re going to need a pair of goggles.
I have just the quest oculus goggles, they work great. I’ve tried Google Cardboard or some of the cheaper ones, but they’re not so great.
You can access the Metaverse just with your PC or your phone, but you just don’t have all the features that the goggles or the glasses give you, so you’re going to need that.
And then you’re also going to need to set up an account, and the easiest way is generally Facebook. The new Meta, their Meta world, is the easiest just to get in. You can log in right with your Facebook, and away you go. It’s really plug-and-play. Once you get the goggles, fire them up, and you’re in there.
David Pisarek: That’s awesome. We bought this VR headset kit for our kids. We bought two of them. One is like a science kit, and one is a baking kit, and it came with the headset. So you just slide your phone into it, it’s pretty neat.
Joanne Toller: Yeah, those still work really well, but the full headsets that are the Oculus ones give you the real experience.
I was watching a Jurassic Park feature there. It’s crazy, it’s all around you, and it’s huge. And you look up, you look down, you turn around, and it’s all around you. That’s when I got nauseous.
David Pisarek: Okay, so let’s talk about leveraging this technology for fundraising. So hopefully you’re not going to make people sick, but how can a non-profit or charity use Metaverse to raise awareness or donations or that side of it?
Joanne Toller: The technology is still fairly new, and the demographics are still fairly young, so it would work very well for organizations, especially national organizations, that want to host an event.
Say you want to bring in a speaker and you’re based out of Toronto. Well, now you can reach all across Canada or North America and have everybody come to see that speaker.
And again, because you don’t have to have the goggles, you can still have people come in much like a zoom just off of their computer and take part in it.
So events are one thing. Speakers, galas, fundraisers, you can partner with creators, the possibilities are endless. Comedy shows, that’s another one that I saw, and there’s going to be advertising, but what I really want to talk about is the digital readiness for this, because really to begin to get into the Metaverse, you’re going to need to have a bunch of other things in place, you’re going to need to have that really great website, that foundation piece.
You’re going to need to have a strong social media presence, so you can help drive participants to a good solid database because it’s not one of those if you build it, they will come. It’s going to take some marketing.
It’s really going to take some marketing to get people going in terms of Metaverse events. But those are just some of the possibilities.
David Pisarek: Yeah, you could have a fundraiser, a comedy night. That’s the first thing you mentioned, you were at a comedy show. That was the first thing that came to my mind… Is tickets, $40 a seat or $20 or whatever it happens to be, and let people into the show.
Joanne Toller: Yeah. Another great thing about the Metaverse is there are a lot of apps that you can get.
I mentioned to you, I have an office in the Metaverse and I use workspaces for that. But there are other ones, I think it’s called Spatial, that’s where you can create venues and it can be unlimited.
You can have an unlimited amount of participants, so they have stadium-type set-ups where you can have a speaker, or you can have a lounge area where you can host a gala. It’s just tapping into some of those other apps to be able to host the events.
Or you can build your own world, it’s not that hard, I’ve been playing around with it. You can actually go in and build your own Dallas space or your own venue.
David Pisarek: That’s pretty cool. If you spent the time, or you hired the right person to do it, you could have a model of your facility and offer tours.
If you’re building a new wing of a hospital, for example, and you want a fundraiser for that, you can get the CAD drawings from the engineers and the architects and bring those in and actually build it out and have walkthroughs (or fly-throughs) with big donors and show them, “Hey, this is what the space is going to be.
Here’s where we can stick your name on the wall” (the donor recognition piece) and try to build larger capital fundraising requests through it.
Joanne Toller: Exactly. There are so many builders out there (Discord is a really great place if you’re going to go and build it yourself), because, again, it’s not that difficult, and you have questions.
The community is so friendly and so helpful, or you can find somebody to outsource that, too, at a fairly reasonable rate. There are a lot of people getting into that world now that are looking to build their portfolio as builders on the Metaverse.
David Pisarek: Absolutely. And in terms of marketing, what can we do to increase our awareness or brand awareness or be out there promoting ourselves a bit more?
Joanne Toller: So I’ve actually been doing this with a client, and I’ve been going around the different plazas in some of the meet-up areas and talking to people and introducing them to what we’re doing. And there are a lot of younger people in there. So one young girl says, “Can I ask you as a friend?” And I’m like, “I’m a boomer”. She spun around and walked away, didn’t want to be my friend anymore.
But just running around and meeting people, there are going to be a lot more advertising opportunities coming up soon, and then pushing it out on all of your channels.
So for this particular client, we’ve got that information on their website. We sent it out and did an email blast on it, it’s part of our social media campaign. And then just encouraging people to come and talk to us and hosting mini events where they can come and see where we’re going to be building and just even meeting up in the plaza and having little small groups and inviting them to our office as well, just for a little tour.
David Pisarek: I think this is a really great opportunity and I think NFTs (non-fungible tokens), those really open the doors a little bit.
Typically, with new tech, you’ve got industry really like pushing that forward, and then you have the education sector right behind that.
And then after that, you’ve got the non-profits and charities and there’s a lot of resistance to embrace some of these new technologies, at least over the last 20 years.
I think this is a great opportunity for non-profits and charities to really get out there and take a little bit of a leap of faith with the tech and try to push those boundaries a little bit ahead of the curve.
And if you can be out there doing that right, you can really have your stronghold and build it up before other organizations do.
Joanne Toller: Exactly.
Being an early adopter and even if, let’s just say (which I can’t see it happening) the Metaverse crashes and burns, it’s a huge fail. Nobody’s interested in it.
Well, at least you’ve tried. And without that, I mean, look at what happened with the internet and websites back in the 80s. People are saying “We don’t need that, it’s a fad!” and look at us now, it’s an absolute necessity. And not only that, it’s got to be optimized. And yeah, it’s just the technology has changed so much.
David Pisarek: Are there other uses that non-profits can leverage Metaverse for aside from fundraising or marketing?
Joanne Toller: I really see big potential in, for example, if you’re a youth organization, especially a national youth organization, it really would be a great opportunity to educate kids.
This particular client I’m with is in mental health, and we really want to work on education and work with this younger generation on mental health and self-care and talking encouraging boys to talk more and so having these conversations, so I know one of the things we’re thinking of is having an influential speaker come in, somebody who the young people will really want to come and see and do something really impactful, and older generations are starting to get on there.
I know you know about this, but really doing your persona work, knowing who your audience is, understanding the graphics in the Metaverse and tapping into that, thinking of creative ways, how we can reach them for fundraising, for awareness, and, yeah, education.
David Pisarek: I mentioned this a number of times on other podcasts and in client meetings and whatnot.
There’s a lot of transfer of wealth that’s going to be happening over the next, 15–20 years. So you really want to back of your mind go, “Okay, we need to connect with these younger audiences now”.
When this transfer of wealth happens… That you’re staying top of mind, that you’ve kind of bedded yourself into their lives in some way, shape, or form and you’ve shown the impact that you have on the world or the community or the cause that you’re fighting for and really drawing them into your organization (and it’s a long game)… You need to bring them in, and get them on board to care about your organization.
When this transfer of wealth happens, (that you’re top of mind in terms of donations or volunteering, or helping out) and if you can figure out how to leverage something like NFTs or Metaverse to be able to engage them at a younger age, they’re more likely to be with you in the long run down the road.
Joanne Toller: Most definitely. I talk a lot about next-gen donors because they’re building their loyalties.
There’s a reason why all of the big brands go for younger consumers, and that’s because they build their loyalties. Now is when we need to start talking to them to sort of build that awareness of who we are and what we do.
And speaking of which, it’s another thing with the Metaverse that charities might want to be looking at is crypto. The ability to accept crypto donations, the ability to accept Google Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal.
I know so many charities that can’t, and that’s how the younger donors are donating. And that’s where things are headed in the Metaverse in terms of payment, one tap Pay.
David Pisarek: If you can make it one-tap Pay, login, and it’ll just connect and do it all, you want to make that experience as simple as possible and as barrier-free.
Ask them for their date of birth down the road. Ask them for their address down the road. That first contact, the second contact, you want to make it as simple as possible, wholeheartedly, agree.
Joanne Toller: And that’s part of the digital readiness.
Are you mobile-friendly? Do you have a solid mobile giving strategy in place?
You know, the donor pyramid and how we have annual campaigns at the bottom, and then we work up to major gifts and then up to ultimately planned gifts.
Well, digital fundraising is the same way. At the bottom, we’ve got our websites and our databases, and then our social media. And then ultimately at the top is things like the Metaverse and all this new technology.
David Pisarek: And I think that’s really key, keeping your eyes and your ears aware of new and inventive technologies that will help you leverage your audience in a way that maybe you haven’t been able to before.
So, in terms of creating your own worlds and leveraging this Metaverse… I’ve gone in, I’ve got my David’s non-profit. Go in, I create the building or the infrastructure and office or whatever. What happens with all that?
Joanne Toller: Well, then that’s when you’re going to want to leverage your networks and get people and start that buzz and get them coming in for tours.
That’s where you need to have that solid base of people who will come, that whole “We will build it, they will come mentality”. No, I get events for years, and I was shocked at how many people say, “Oh, we’ll throw this great event”, and I’m like, “Cool, who are your supporters?”, and they have maybe a database of 100 people. We need solid supporters. That’s a whole other podcast!
David Pisarek: Absolutely, “how to build your supporter database, and get them to show up and turn up and get involved”, for sure. We could probably talk for hours about that one.
Do you have any quick… Like two or three Quick wins that people who are listening can do to just get started with this?
Joanne Toller: Yeah!
Get an oculus headset!
They’re not that expensive, I think I got mine for $399 on Amazon, it was well worth the investment. Get playing around and then all the ideas just start to come to you.
If you go into the Metaverse with this idea of, “How can my non-profit use this?” You’re going to have tons of ideas.
David Pisarek: That’s awesome. If you have a team, get a headset, whatever the headset happens to be. If it’s a cardboard cutout… There are instructions online, and if you go into Google and you search for “cardboard cutout VR headset”, you’re going to find it there.
You can make one ridiculously cheap, or you can invest and get something decent, like the Oculus headset. But if you have a team, have other people in your team wear this thing even for half an hour and just explore a little bit, do some brainstorming sessions, sit down for an hour or half-hour, ten minutes, and just talk about, “Hey, what are some things we can do with this?” and then figure out what it is that you can do to get there to make that actually happen.
Joanne Toller: Most definitely. I see huge possibilities with it. I could say they, especially national organizations and more youth-focused organizations, should definitely be looking at this opportunity.
David Pisarek: Fantastic. Joanne, super awesome insights as always. A pleasure to speak with you, and I hope that the people listening to this have been able to get a little bit of insight and will actually go and do something with this. Whether it’s even just going online and searching for Metaverse and seeing other videos on YouTube of what people are doing.
People record themselves doing all kinds of stuff, you’ll find videos of people in the Metaverse, and you’ll be able to see what it’s all about.
Joanne Toller: And as well, if anyone has any questions, I’m always happy to spend a little ten to 15 minutes talking with non-profits, and I’m always available.
David Pisarek: So speaking of that… Perfect segway! If anybody wants to get in touch with you, what do they need to do?
Joanne Toller: Our website is causespecialists.ca, and then from the website, you’ll have my contact information and our YouTube channel and our podcast as well, where I actually have a YouTube video on the Metaverse, and we have a podcast on the Metaverse as well.
I’m going to be putting out some more stuff very soon on it.
David Pisarek: That’s awesome. Thanks again so much for joining in, Joanne. It’s been great having you here on the Non-profit Digital Success podcast.
To everybody listening, if you enjoy this episode, head over to nonprofitdigitalsuccess.com/podcast, and click on this episode for all the show notes.
We’ll have links to the Oculus headset and this and that, and whatever things that Joanne talked about will have links to her website and her YouTube channel there as well.
So until next time, keep on being successful!