4 min read

Making the most of the chance to secure funding for your cause, with inspiration from Eminem.

If you’re in fundraising, where better to look for inspiration than Eminem?

Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment . . . would you capture it or just let it slip?

Securing a meeting with a big prospect—the one that has the means to change everything—can have you blasting Eminem on the elevator ride up to the meeting. But as you’re blasting that music, you’d do well to take Slim Shady’s sage advice and avoid a Mom’s spaghetti moment altogether.

What if you craft your pitch and know it inside and out beforehand? All the research, follow up, crafty maneuvering through (and around) gatekeepers is worthless if you don’t have your pitch compelling and ready to go.

Your donor pitch is the key to unlocking the gates to funding. You should be using it in real elevators, over email, on the phone, in text messages, and online. But before you start rattling that pitch off, you should get it as close to perfect as possible. Here’s your guide on how to craft your fundraising pitch and seize your moment.

Develop your message. Start by determining your audience: Who is it that you’re speaking to? You should know your ideal funder better than your competitors and at least as well as your beneficiaries. Only then can you cater effectively to their priorities and motivations.

Next: What is your ideal funder trying to accomplish? Why are you the one best equipped to help them accomplish it? Consider how you can win their trust (and funds) by highlighting that you have exactly what they are looking for.

Then: What words and phrases will resonate with your ideal funder? You can win their trust and establish expertise by showing that you know the lingo and the industry.

But it ultimately doesn’t matter how good one iteration of your pitch is or how impactful your mission if your message isn’t unified—across your copy, taglines, slogan, and website. Your team should be speaking with one voice, magnifying the same message. It is this unity that will give you credibility with your (potential) funders.

It is critical that every member of your team, from fundraising to communications, and even your board members are spreading the same message. This especially means your programs team and fundraising operations need to be speaking to each other.

Now for the pitch. The elevator pitch should be the most compelling thing you can communicate to a potential funder in the span of one elevator ride. Simply put, it is a quick introduction to your nonprofit. It should be 30 seconds long (max), spark an interest and a response, and highlight the problem you’re solving and how.

Your elevator companion asks, “Tell me about what you do.” Do you know what you will say?

Here’s what you shouldn’t say:

  • Jargon or slang
  • Lengthy background on your founding
  • Granular specifics
  • Sweeping generalities

Assume your elevator companion is ten years old, and knows nothing about the problem, your nonprofit, or why any of it matters. In short, remember the old acronym: keep it simple, stupid.

The perfect pitch will be about 30 seconds long with a clear call to action, and that symphony will have three movements: the hook, the body, and the close.

Your hook is your major chance to grab your listener’s attention. Start by taking your mission statement and isolating the main ideas. Then, refine it. The body of your pitch is your unique value proposition. What makes you different in how you serve? How does your approach stand out from the crowd? And lastly, your closing is your specific ask—which could change depending on whom you’re speaking to. All the same, you should know your various closers.

Here's an example I like:

We are ending sex trafficking in Cambodia. We help victims escape and we help these young girls rebuild their lives. And we engage with the government and business leaders to get to the root cause. Because we know that if we can do that in Cambodia, we can end sex slavery everywhere. We can’t reach our full potential until we all share the responsibility of a world where women and children are safe. Would you be willing to explore how we could partner?

Once you’ve crafted it, you should role-play it constantly until you could deliver it in your sleep. Do it with your team members, consultants, friends—even family. Record yourself and listen to it. Tweak and practice until it rolls off the tongue naturally.

I’ll never forget a formative moment in my early days of development. I was working for a large, mature fundraising shop. Leadership flew in over a hundred development staff members for a week-long, all-hands-on-deck team alignment . . . on the pitch. Expert public relations consultants were brought in. As a group, we role-played the pitch for days until leadership felt it was consistent across the team.

It’s that important. 

The supporting details: the proposal and the one-pager.

I’m a big believer that you don’t need a leave-behind for a meeting if your pitch is clear. However, having your supporting documents at the ready is crucial as a follow-up piece to your pitch meeting. If a check wasn’t signed at the meeting, a proposal or one-pager gives you an opening to thank the prospect for their time and provide more details on ways to partner.

You can find articles across Philanthropy Daily on the finer details of putting these materials together, but by having these, along with your pitch, ready before your meeting, you’ll feel ready to seize your moment—with no spaghetti on the menu.

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