How to ask for donations

When you approach a potential donor you will want a quick and compelling way to introduce your organization. People in sales and marketing call this an “elevator pitch”.

nonprofit fundraisingElevator Pitch: noun, informal noun
– a succinct and persuasive sales pitch.
Origin: from the idea of having to impress a senior executive during a brief ride in an elevator.

 OK, I realize the word “sales” just made some of your stomachs turn, but this isn’t the old school – buy now, supplies limited, but wait, there’s more – sales pitch our grandfathers used. The modern elevator pitch is a highly researched and organized way for you to present the most compelling aspects about your mission.

Here is an outline to help you structure your “nonprofit elevator pitch”

1. Describe Your Core Function

The first thing people will want to know is what your organization does. What is your organizations goal and purpose? This is the foundation of your nonprofit elevator pitch. It is the premise from which you will build your story.

Helpful Tips

  • Keep it short: Do your best to sum it all up in one to three sentences
  • Use your mission statement as a template
  • Throw in some details; this will help people envision the scope of your mission

We feed 480 Detroit inner city school children free hot lunches every day of the school year.

2. Add Supporting Details

Now that you explained your main purpose, it is time to build off of it with some details. How do you do, what you do? The important part here is to keep the focus off of you. Instead, focus on the difference you make in people’s lives. You should have two to four supporting details.

Helpful Tips

  • Show don’t Tell. This is the journalistic motto and should be the motto of any good story teller
  • Use examples of real people to demonstrate how you fulfill your mission
  • Include information on why your work is important

Each day the food is prepared fresh in a commercial kitchen. We only use organic food that is locally grown. Once the meals are ready, four volunteers deliver the meals from our kitchen to the school cafeterias.  It’s been documented that children that have a quality lunch perform better in school.

3. What’s your Hook?

Is there something about your program that makes it different than others? Share that. Think about what makes your nonprofit unique. This doesn’t have to be completely mission related. It can be as simple as throwing in an interesting piece of trivia.

Helpful Tips

  • Research the history of your organization for an interesting fact
  • Highlight a long term goal that you are working towards
  • Share any recent awards, accomplishments or special recognition your organization has been given

Each Friday, a “Guest Chef” from a local restaurant volunteers to prepare the meals for all the children we serve in Detroit.

Did you know, John Travolta donated $1,000 last year.

Our deliver trucks run on the cooking oil waste from the school cafeterias.

4. Share a Success

It is time to wrap up your pitch. One of the most powerful ways to close your elevator pitch is to share a real life success story. This is a great way to show someone that your organization makes a difference.

Helpful Tips

  • Use a quote from someone who uses your services
  • Have a photo of someone using your services
  • Arm yourself with some stats (but don’t use a lot of them)

Joanne graduated from our job corp program two years ago. Today she is the manager of the coffee shop we are in right now. 

The Detriot school district reported that the grade point average of the students who participate in our program has gone up a half point.

5. Ask

Now you should be ready to ask for a donation. Share with your potential donor that you are having a fundraiser. Let them know what you are raising money for, the amount you are trying to raise and how much you have already collected.

[box type=”info” align=”aligncenter” width=”98%” ]Know This
The number one reason people donate to a charity is because someone asked them.[/box]

If you have structured your elevator pitch well, then it should be easy to explain what you need and why you need it.

Helpful Tips

  • Take a breath and tell yourself to slowdown. If you are nervous you will talk faster and breathe with shorter breaths. Try to relax.
  • Don’t go into sales person mode. You have just told a story about your organization, think of the “ask” as the conclusion of your story.
  • Be honest.

One of our deliver vehicles needs replacing. We have found a used truck that suits our needs perfectly. The dealer gave us a discount, so it only cost $16,000. We have already raised $5,000. Can you help us get a new delivery van?

Other Tips to Help you Raise Money

  • Use props to (photos, business card, brochures, a video or even graphs) enhance your presentation.
  • Use emotion. People remember feelings more than facts.
  • “Even a penny will help”. This exact phrase has been proven to increase the number of people who donate to a charity. But a word of caution… it has also been proven to decrease the amount people give.
  • Leave space for questions. Don’t get caught up in the pitch and forget to listen. Give people an opportunity to engage and ask questions.
  • Meet in a comfortable setting. Coffee shops, lunch spots and even shopping malls can be great places to meet potential donors. If you are nervous about asking for donations then try not to meet in their corporate board room.
  • Know your audience. What is important to them? What do they advocate? If your pitch stresses the use of organic food, but they are more interested in the educational benefits of good nutrition, then change the focus of your pitch.
  • Get their contact information. Whether they donate or not, ask them if you can add them to your email list so you can update them on your progress.
  • Remember, it is not about you. It isn’t even about your organization. It is about the people you serve. You are asking for a donation on their behalf.
  • Give people other ways to help. Nobody likes to say “no” to a charity. So, give them other ways to say “yes”. Hand them your business card and ask them to share your fundraising campaign on their Facebook page.
  • Know what you are raising money for and build your pitch around that.
  • Just know this – the number one reason people donate to a charity is because someone asked them.

And finally…

The length of your elevator pitch can vary. Some say to keep it at 30 seconds. Others say keep it under two minutes. But every situation is different. Someone truly interested in your cause may engage with you for 15 minutes. The point is – you should be able to lay out all the important information about your organization in a just a couple minutes.

And remember, just because you are using an elevator pitch, doesn’t mean you are a sales person. You are a passionate person sharing information about a cool service/product that you believe in. Tell the story with sincerity, purpose and emotion.

Good luck.

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