Ten simple steps to pitch to potential donors

Spear Bethnal Green 15

Fundraising for charities has never been harder. There is increasing competition for funds, corporates are being more discerning and donors are expecting more.

Over the years, I have helped a number of charities improve their fundraising presentations and win important pitches, including Teenage Cancer Trust, Impetus Trust (now Impetus – PEF) and many of its portfolio charities.

I’d like to share with you some of the lessons we have learned that will help you be more effective at raising money from donors. We have distilled our approach into a set of simple steps that anyone can follow:

  1. Do your research – The more you know about those you are pitching to the better. Study both the organisation and the individuals. Understand what they need and what they might want. There is no such thing as knowing too much.
  2. Make your entire pitch about them – This is often the hardest lesson to learn. Pitching to a donor is not about you, it’s about what your pitch means to the person who might give. What will involvement mean for them? Answering that question will bring you a much closer to winning them over.
  3. Grab attention within the first 15 seconds – First impressions are critical. You need to get them on your side from the start. Plan the beginning of your pitch very carefully.
  4. Use a clear structure – Like great architecture, a great pitch is all about structure: how you start, how you lead into a topic, how you finish – these all matter. If you use one of the tried and tested structures for your pitch, you will be much more persuasive.
  5. Appeal to the head and the heart – A good pitch is a careful blend of emotion and logic, so be sure to use a balance of both. Think about the questions they need to answer. For example: Why should I support them? Why would I want to support them? How will it sound when I tell others I have supported them?
  6. Tell stories – The best pitches use stories. A story is powerful and memorable.  Think how many stories you remember from childhood. In fact there’s one piece of advice that I always follow, “facts get forgotten, whereas stories get repeated”.
  7. Use the right visual aids – While PowerPoint is a great tool, so many people abuse it. Make sure you are using the right visual aid for the right audience. For example, the page you have in a pitch book will not be the same as the slide you project in front of an audience. In many cases PowerPoint should not be used at all.
  8. Have a conversation – One of the big secrets of a good pitch is to make it conversational. Remember, we have one mouth and two ears, and we should use them in that proportion. The more the donor speaks, the more you learn and the more they feel they are contributing.
  9. Give your pitch with energy and enthusiasm – Your passion needs to show through. Your voice, your body language and your attitude all add to the impression you make. Can you dazzle them?
  10. Practise – Imagine yourself as a doctor or an athlete. You are only good at what you do because of all the preparation you do before the big day. It’s not a case of knowing your pitch word for word – it’s about being prepared for any type of meeting you might face.

Refined pitching skills are more important than ever for success in charity fundraising. The good news is that pitching skills are learned skills and can be taught. You would be surprised how much work goes into creating the clearest, simplest and most effective pitches.

Benjamin Ball runs Benjamin Ball Associates, one of London’s leading presentation training firms. They have been pro bono supporters of Impetus-PEF for many years. For more information, please go to: www.benjaminball.com

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