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Perfect Your Nonprofit Pitch: How To "Tell Your Story” In 20-Seconds Or Less

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Sometimes one of the biggest obstacles nonprofits have to overcome is the fact that “nobody gets what we do.” As a member of the organization, you understand what you do every day… but to the general public, they just don’t understand who you serve, how your mission works, or the importance of it. To make matters worse, when you or a board member goes to explain, you get tongue-tied and don’t know quite how to phrase things because, let’s face it, you do a lot! It’s important that anyone raising awareness on behalf of your organization understands how to share your story effectively and an incredibly important component to your story is your nonprofit pitch. 

The pitch is your “spark-notes” version of your story. In essence, it is a bite-sized, action-packed, statement that tells the audience what you are all about. When pitching, less is more. Try to keep it clear and concise. The goal is to hook the listener’s attention quickly so they will want to know more and engage you further. Whether you are meeting with a potential donor or pitching the media, having a powerful nonprofit pitch will set you apart.

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Here’s what to include in a nonprofit pitch

Who you serve + the results you achieve for those people. 

Use a hook for this. Something that instantly gets the attention of the audience. In other words, tell us what problem your organization solves… in 20 seconds or less!

PRO TIP: Make sure the nonprofit pitch is clear enough that even a second-grader could understand it. Leave out big, fancy words and industry jargon.

The pitch should be also be absolutely brimming with emotion. I remember when I was in an entrepreneur class for my princess party business in my early twenties. Yes, you read that right, I owned a princess party business and in case you were wondering, yes, I played the princesses.

Anyways, after completing the course, we held a showcase of our final products a.k.a. our businesses. During the showcase, we had an elevator pitch competition and the goal was to hook the audience in twenty seconds or less.

My pitch went something like, “Imagine the look on your child’s face when her favorite princess arrives on her special day to celebrate with her. For priceless moments and unforgettable memories call (insert princess party business name here).” See how that thing was almost nauseatingly over the top? Well, it won.

When you don’t have a lot of time, you have to be a little “extra.” The secret to not coming across as completely icky is to make your pitch about the listener. If I had said, “Have our dazzling princesses arrive to create a party you’ll never forget. With their unmatched beauty and magnetic personalities our princesses will make your party one to remember.” It doesn’t evoke the same emotional response because it is more focused on the princesses than the consumer.

Your pitch should always be about the consumer

The pitch should have the person visualizing themselves with what you are offering and not wanting to live without it. No pressure, right? In nonprofit terms, tell the problem you solve for the community because for most of us, the community is the consumer.

I currently work for a nonprofit in Indianapolis called Morning Light that operates a 12-bedroom home for hospice patients without financial resources. When we share what we do it goes something like, “Morning Light makes sure the terminally-ill with nowhere to go and no one to care for them in their final days have a place to call home and a hand to hold. We provide a warm bed, three home-cooked meals a day, and most importantly, care and dignity at the end of life’s journey.” Ultimately, we explain who we serve and how we help in a way that emotionally resonates. Later, we can get into the details of the size of the home, how we operate, who staffs the home, who sends us referrals, how we fundraise, etc… but in terms of the pitch, the goal is to show your audience what you are all about as quickly as possible. Remember, practice makes perfect. Write the twenty-second pitch and try it out on a few people. Ask for suggestions, questions, and improvements. The audience is always right.

Take your pitch a step further

Try This Too: The book Let The Story Do The Work by Esther K. Choy takes the concept of “a pitch” a step further. Instead of perfecting the “Elevator Pitch” the Author argues it is best to perfect the “Elevator Dialog.” People respond better to being talked with rather than talked at. If you are in a situation that allows for good back-and-forth, it is better to engage the listener by inviting them to participate. How can you adapt your pitch to include guided questions? An example would be to end the pitch with, “Who do you know who may be interested in this?”

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