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Pitch-perfect: How can non-profits better pitch to funders?

Jennie Jeffery is the Partnerships and Events Manager at The Funding Network and has been supporting non-profits fundraise for over 7 years. We sat down with her to understand how non-profits can better pitch to funders. 

How do small non-profits typically access funding?

There’s plenty of different avenues a non-profit can take to unlock funding, but it can be quite daunting and challenging if you don’t have dedicated fundraising staff or expertise, particularly if you are early stage and don’t yet have your first year of accounts. 
 
Often small non-profits start within their own networks – but many lack the contacts they need and without a financial track record, funding from corporates, family and community foundations can remain out of reach.

How does TFN help unlock funding?

TFN is a network that connects a group of engaged donors with small, innovative non-profits through the power of live crowdfunding. At our events, non-profits raise around £10,000 but they also have the opportunity to expand their networks and start new relationships with donors. This is really valuable for any non-profit, but particularly those that are smaller or early-stage. We are also a lot more open than many funders – you don’t have to be a registered charity to be nominated for support and we often fund organisations that are relatively early stage. In many cases we are one of their first funders.
 

What do “pitches” look like at a typical TFN event?

Selected non-profits get 6 minutes to present their stories and bid for funds at our – previously in-person now virtual – crowdfunding events. 
 
An issue many small non-profits I have worked with have is that they are not skilled at writing compelling funding applications, but they are GREAT at talking about their work. At our events, selected non-profit leaders pitch to a warm audience of donors, who then pledge their support in an auction-like pledging session. This format gives non-profit leaders a platform to speak directly to funders and tell their story. 

great pitch tells a narrative that allows the audience to sit back and listen without having to try hard to understand. 

 


What are the advantages of pitching in this way? 

The most obvious benefit is the response, typically £10,000, which for a small non-profit is a significant amount. But it’s more than that. Non-profit leaders have the opportunity to talk directly to a group of highly engaged donors - an audience who are already there with a view to give money. It’s not a cold ask. Everyone who attends knows who will be pitching on the night, knows they have been through the TFN due diligence and selection process.
 
Our members and event attendees who donate on the night often stay connected, providing non-financial support years down the line. For example, in 2011 Jamie’s Farm, a non-profit that runs programmes for disadvantaged inner city children through farm-based activities, received an additional donation of £500,000 and in the end was gifted an entire farm by a donor that they met at the event. 
 
Ultimately we provide non-profits with a platform, a stage to tell their story. Their pitches are filmed and promoted after the event - this is a great way to showcase their work to existing and potential supporters. 

How do you help non-profits prepare before TFN events?

We support them from the very first stage once they submit their application. If they are not selected by our member-based selection panel we provide detailed feedback. Non-profits who are selected to pitch at an upcoming event receive dedicated ongoing support– I run an afternoon workshop with the three charity presenters where we discuss the upcoming event, the content of the pitch, what to include and what to leave out. I provide feedback after the rehearsals, making sure they feel at ease and confident in their pitch on the night.

What are the common pitfalls you see non-profits making in their preparations?

We make sure our non-profits are well-prepared in the run up to our events.
 
However, I do find that many charities are inclined to focus too much on the problem and not enough on the solution. It’s vital to communicate how your solution is unique and how it’s making a difference, bringing your impact to life through personal stories. 
You need to build credibility with potential donors so I often encourage speakers to let their personality and passion show. During the coronavirus pandemic, where we moved to virtual events, this has become even more important, to help build the connection. 

What does a good non-profit pitch look like?

A good pitch:
  • Tells a story 
  • Clearly outlines the potential impact of funds
  • Highlights the USPs of the organisation 
  • Focuses on your innovative solution to the identified problem
  • Is honest about challenges
  • Communicates personal passion
A great pitch tells a narrative that allows the audience to sit back and listen without having to try hard to understand. 

How can I prepare for questions?

First thing to remember is questions are not hostile. No one asks a question without already being in the mindset of supporting you. Don’t be afraid to extend the conversation. If you can use the questions to have a follow up conversation with a donor then do. And be honest about your work. Always be prepared for questions around budgets and finances. 

Any last tips?

If you are not the world’s best presenter, don’t worry. People respond to honesty, authenticity and enthusiasm rather than someone who does public speaking as their day job. 
 
And breathe. Never forget to breathe. 

About our live crowdfunding events

The Funding Network brings together donors and grassroots charities at live crowdfunding events. Our now virtual events are free and open to all. 

Find out about upcoming events here.

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28 Commercial Street
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Tel: 0207 846 4070
Email: info@thefundingnetwork.org.uk

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