Virtual Tours Can Bring Campaigns (Back) to Life

During a 2010 presentation at the Nonprofit Technology Conference at CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, several attendees 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. Those were created for CKWRI, Rob & Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation and the Art Museum of Texas. If you have an interest in pursuing this kind of idea, I am sure Javier would be happy to help you.

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 as an independent contractor to pull the project back together from a fundraising standpoint. By way of background, I had been interviewed for the job by some of the leading lights of Corpus Christi, Texas. But once hired, I was not paid by Texas A&M University Corpus Christi as many suspect, although I worked a bit with the campus President who served as campaign co-chair.

I worked on the campaign for three years (campaign research, design, implementation and communications), and I did all work by hand with little if any help from staff, until the grand opening occurred. In fact, many staff at the museum and at TAMUCC felt the campaign was a “wash” and truly impossible. Not so! The unsung hero here is actually the lead donor herself, Mr. Maureen Miller. She worked with me during this time side-by-side tirelessly, as if she were a member of the staff. And I salute the many volunteers who also supported the effort in so many meaningful and effective ways, from Louise Chapman and Celika Storm to Marcie Taylor, JoAn Rhode, Karen Urban, Toby Shor and more. Corpus Christi is blessed.

Returning to the virtual tour project, 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. We had actually been given the option of hiring another firm to do this work, but Javier and his team at CLK agreed to work on this project half-price as a partial donation, for which we were grateful. Javier did an outstanding job.

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 obtained our goal to fund the new William B. and Maureen Miller Wing.


For those seeking additional information about the Art Museum of South Texas, follow the link. When I completed my work, I collected my case statements and other documents and placed them in the Museum’s archive in Mary and Jeff Bell Library on the campus of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (and I maintain a few myself).

The virtual tour was funded by Bernard Paulson and Daniel A. Pedrotti. It is worth noting that they inspired this innovative idea to become reality. They felt the usual PowerPoint presentation would not inspire donors to give, and they were right. Kudos to them for underwriting this highly effective virtual tour.

The great architect Ricardo Legorreta passed away in December, 2011. Meeting and working with Ricardo and his son, Victor was one of the highlights of my career.

I thought you might enjoy reading this “next gen” virtual reality article from The Economist, “Immersive experiences, the future of philanthropy” (July 5, 2017).

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