You know your organization does great work. But are you pitching your nonprofit in a way that translates? Does the way you talk about your work gain your organization more funding, more members, or more support? Lots of nonprofit organizations struggle with creating unique and powerful messages that grab the attention of potential donors and supporters – so we thought we would share some tips we have created over the years, whether it is for face-to-face conversation, written messages, or grant applications.
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Common Mistakes in Nonprofit Pitches
Pretty often, we find that nonprofits are ‘in too deep’ into their own work to know what is most interesting or what other people understand. We might:
- Think that people understand way more about our issue than they actually do
- Describe our operations instead of our mission. This is sort of like when someone gives you a play by play of the plot of a movie, instead of describing its theme or core questions
- Get really long and rambly (the complexity is interesting to us… but is it to everyone?)
- Give inauthentic answers because we get too caught up in the minutae to remember our real why
- Forget to talk about our impact and the things we create (like a mechanic saying “I use this wrench and this kind of oil”, instead of, I fix cars, nonprofits often will say ‘we do workshops and other kinds of activities’ instead of ‘we break isolation’
Elements of a good pitch
There are a bunch of questions that we ask organizations to help them find the basis of a good pitch:
- What is it that is unique about our organization
- Where do we come from? What are our roots? What is our origin story?
- What is the problem we are trying to solve?
- What is our solution to that problem?
- What have our major successes been?
- What are our central values?
- Why am I engaged in this organization?
- What is the most relatable part of our organization, that I could lead with for a general audience?
- Why do we need your support (financially or otherwise!)
We talk about these questions and more in our guide to nonprofit social media.
Often, we get people to answer these questions individually first. Then, practice with somebody else. Pretend that person knows nothing already about your organization, and that you are meeting them at a dinner party or through friends. Once you’re done, ask that person:
- What was most interesting to you about what I said?
- Where did I lose you? What was confusing?
- What did you want to know more about?
Then, take their feedback and try again with a new person! Rinse, wash, repeat. As you get better and more clear about your pitch, try to adapt it to different contexts and different audiences.
- How would this change if it was to a new, potential funder?
- How would this change if it was to someone who lives in the neighbourhood?
- How would this change if I was recruiting a new staff member?
- How would this change on social media, versus face to face, versus in a letter?
- Can you turn your pitch into a social media post (or 3!) — some without an ask, and some with!
Try timing yourself- what is the 2 minute version? What is the 5 minute version? What do I lead with, or leave out if need be?
Making an Ask
Not all pitching leads to an ask, but for nonprofits, it can be an important element. Plus, a lot of us are uncomfortable with this, which doesn’t help! Start by figuring out what it is that you need:
And then practice asking for those things, really directly. Things like:
- Which is why we are asking you to be on our Board: we need your passion and curiosity about this issue to support our growth
- Which is why we are seeking more financial support for our programs. Would you be able to offer a donation of X$?
Try out different questions and find one that you are comfortable saying, but that is also clear. Try working it into the pitch you just created!
There are lots of other great resources about nonprofit pitching, including this one from Joan Garry that is well worth checking out!