No one appreciates articles that smartly advise nonprofits how to pitch to donors more than the donors themselves. After all, assuming the advice is indeed smart, simple articles like this one from The Network for Good can save donors, be they individuals or foundations, significant time and some discomfort. We want to give money away, so it is in our interest to help you gain and keep our attention.
The Network for Good offers the following best practices. I’ve added my 2 cents on each.
Make it clear. Don’t just be clear about what you want to accomplish but, importantly, also be clear about what you want us to do. For example: “We want to provide XYZ services to eligible Bay Area residents and we are asking you to underwrite both the cost of those services and a public communications campaign to highlight their availability and benefits.”
Make it easy. Especially when you’re dealing with individuals (versus foundations that typically have their own procedures), remember that check-writers want to write checks, period. Don’t make them jump through hoops with endless donation forms (ugh). You’re the applicant here, not them.
Make it matter. Never over-promise or puff; experienced donors will smell that right away. But offer your best estimate as to tangible results; for example, “we project that, with the funding requested, all children in Jones County will have free school lunches by the beginning of next semester.” When in doubt, err on the side of modesty.
Also, if the donor has supported similar causes in the past, note that in your pitch. Institutional donors in particular often welcome opportunities to build whole programs around dominant social purposes. For example, if they’re already funding free school lunches in Smith County, doing so in Jones County adds to their overall sense of coherent institutional mission.
Make it relatable. While foundations pay a lot of attention to macro-studies – see, for example, my DATE post, “Beware Those Rising Tides” – the most prepossessing metrics seldom motivate even large institutional givers as decisively as the real-life stories behind those metrics. In that sense, we’re no different than the individual citizen who sends a check to CARE or the ASPCA. Show us the faces or make us imagine them. You might think about ways to tastefully incorporate individual narratives into your pitch. I repeat: “tastefully.” Do not be mawkish or manipulative.
Make it urgent. I have no problem with deadlines. To the contrary, if the people you’re trying to help can wait for another six months or a year, there are many millions of others who cannot wait, and they’re the ones likelier to get my attention. But don’t just tell me it’s urgent. Tell me why it’s urgent, and soberly assess the consequences of further delay.