Ease of organization, larger participant pools and technological advances have helped the virtual nonprofit focus group overtake its traditional format. It may lack the coffee and cookies, but it has many other reasons to dominate the field of supporter feedback.
Here are 7 reasons to try a virtual nonprofit focus group
1. You have more flexibility
If you’ve held an in-person focus group before, you know how difficult it can be to bring a group of people together for the few hours you need to speak with them. Because the virtual format will allow you to include people who aren’t local, you’ll have an easier time finding a date and time for the group to meet.
Even better, the format is more accessible for people who may have issues with mobility or who deal with other realities that might prevent them from being able to meet in person. Having a larger participant pool should also result in you receiving more diverse opinions.
2. You have a wide range of tools to choose from when it comes to hosting the focus group
Securing a space for your in-person focus group can be a hassle. For your virtual focus group, however, you have plenty of tools to choose from when it comes to bringing people together. Zoom is one of the most popular options, but there’s also Adobe Connect, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and Webex.
3. Virtual focus groups are the more cost-effective option
Although the expenses associated with hosting an in-person focus group vary, most nonprofits find themselves having to rent an event space, provide incentives for people to attend, pay for expenses like travel costs, and offer food and beverages.
With a virtual focus group, you might send a gift card to entice people to come or to thank them for participating, and there may be a cost associated with using the meeting software, but overall this is a more cost-effective option.
4. There’s a better chance that everyone will be heard
Moderators leading in-person focus groups sometimes favor the louder people in the group. This marginalizes those who need more time to process or who are more introverted and less likely to speak up first.
With a virtual focus group, moderators can more easily direct the conversation flow. The software they use may even be able to put people in a queue to speak or virtually raise their hands when they have something to say. This leads to a better chance that you’ll be able to hear from every participant.
5. They’re easy to transcribe
When looking at the different tools you can use to host the virtual focus group, see which ones have the option to record and potentially transcribe the meeting. Some of these audio-to-text transcribe functions are seamless. This means you’ll have access to the answers you want faster than you would if you were waiting on someone to bring the audio from an in-person group back to the office.
6. You won’t have to rely on paper handouts
Getting videos and literature in front of your nonprofit focus group is easy online. No need for print outs, white boards or webs of power cords trailing all around the room. While you retain the option to send emails ahead of time with attachments. The traditional tick box and comments section feedback methods can all be delivered electronically, complimenting the multidimensional character of the virtual meeting space.
7. People may be more comfortable in their own home
As I mentioned above, some people may be intimidated by others in the room during an in-person focus group. Because people are getting more used to participating in virtual meetings, however, there’s a good chance they’ll be comfortable participating from the comfort of their own home and will be more likely to speak up.
The downside of a virtual nonprofit focus group
Accessibility is important, which is why I want to highlight one risk of hosting a virtual focus group.
Because the individuals who participate need access to technology and need to know how to use the technology you’ll use to host the group, this may exclude those who don’t have those tools or that knowledge. If that’s something you’re worried about, think about how you can make it easier for people to participate.
Although I stand by what I wrote above, I believe there will always be a place for the traditional in-person focus group. However, the new opportunities presented by the advances in digital tools give us even more ways to host a great focus group. I hope these tips will help you make the most of them!