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Don’t save your pitch for the elevator

  • Emma Beeston is an experienced grant maker and philanthropy advisor. She advises funders and philanthropists on how best to donate their funds to effect social change.

    The 3-minute pitch is a fundraising classic

    Everyone involved in a charity, whether a fundraiser or not, should have their compelling ‘case for support’ ready to go at a moment’s notice. You never know who you will meet at a conference, on the train, or even in a lift, who may be in a position to donate to your charity if you just get the pitch right.

    However, time and time again, at funding fairs, workshops and events and even when visiting a charity to conduct an assessment, this is a common exchange:

    Q: Tell me about your charity?

    A: We were founded in 2006 and became a charity in 2007...

    I appreciate that I am a funding officer and not a major donor, so you don’t need to persuade me to hand over my own money. But I am a person who, alongside all the questions about finances and governance, really wants to know why you do what you do and the difference it makes. Once you have told me that, then you can go on and tell me about your background and how long you have been established. Or even better, just tell me that when I ask.

    The same rule applies as for all effective communication: be led by the audience. Don’t tell me what you want to say, tell me what I need to hear.

    And more importantly I have also facilitated meetings and network events where charities get to meet with MPs or other such high profile people and the same thing commonly happens. The charity representative starts with the history of the charity. If this is you and your staff, you need to break this habit and start talking about the purpose of your work. And even though they are unlikely to donate, that is exactly what an MP wants to hear too. In fact that really should be the first thing you tell pretty much everyone you meet.

    So next time you meet a funder, MP, neighbour, friend at a party and they ask what you do, please be ready:

    Q: Tell me about your charity?

    A: We work towards the eradication of slavery wherever it is found. We provide survivors with safety, hope and choice (from Unseen UK).


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