Virtual Tours Can Bring Campaigns (Back) to Life

During a 2010 presentation at the Nonprofit Technology Conference at CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, several people requested information about “virtual tours.” I wanted to share one of my most successful experiences with this wonderful tool, which in the end was essential to securing our multi-million dollar fundraising goal.

The idea behind a “virtual tour” of a building or other physical entity that has not yet been constructed, is to convey how it will look once funding is secured and construction has taken place. “Virtual tours” convey the excitement of a capital project, for instance, and can inspire donors to contribute. I have found them to be a first class solicitation tool.

I have worked on three “virtual tours,” each one created with the help of a good friend, A. Javier Huerta, AIA, principal with CLK Architects & Associates in Corpus Christi, Texas. If you have an interest in pursuing this kind of idea further, I am sure Javier would be happy to help you. I have posted my favorite of the three “virtual tours,” created for the Art Museum of South Texas, on YouTube.

I can say without hesitation this visualization of the new Legorreta + Legorreta-designed museum wing changed our fundraising campaign dramatically. In brief, the Art Museum of South Texas had tried to raise funds for the project, but its plans were derailed by 9-11. It took several years to get back on track, and by that time the project budget had doubled and the architectural design had changed to something quite a bit more sophisticated.

“Virtual” interior of the new wing. This virtual image is of the Chapman Gallery, and it is one of the most beautiful exhibition spaces anywhere in the world.

I was hired to pull the project back together from a fundraising standpoint. Javier Huerta took our “flat” architectural drawings, and using a sophisticated architectural software program, he showed viewers what the building would look like once constructed. In fact, the virtual tour made the building look so real, when I took copies of the tour on CD to the State Capitol to present it to regional legislators, they thought it had already been constructed.

The virtual tour was subsequently played over and over again as we made call after call on prospective donors, some of whom did not believe the building would actually be realized. The visualization helped investors gain confidence, and one by one, gifts were made until we attained our goal to fund the new William B. and Maureen Miller Wing.

Photo by Michelle Locke, former curator of the Art Museum of South Texas, of the new wing under construction from the harbor bridge. Click to reach the AMST website.

For those seeking additional information about the Art Museum of South Texas, click on the photo of the building under construction to reach its website. When I completed my work for AMST, I collected all pertinent documents relating to the project, and placed them in the Museum’s archive in Mary and Jeff Bell Library on the campus of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

My fundraising work on this project was underwritten by the Museum’s foundation. Although Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and the City of Corpus Christi were kind to provide partial annual funding to sustain the Museum’s operations over time, fundraising for the new Miller wing was privately supported. The virtual tour was funded by Bernard Paulson and Daniel A. Pedrotti.

After the great architect whose work is featured here – Ricardo Legorreta – passed away in December, 2011, I wrote a brief, personal tribute on Tumblr. Meeting and working with Ricardo and his talented son, Victor, was one of the highlights of my career.

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