“We just need a pitch deck.”
“We just need an elevator pitch for our board”.
There are countless other ways I’ve heard this sentiment. That an organization’s fundraising will be “saved” or magically transformed with the right pitch.
Today, I’m going to tell you why that’s completely wrong.
Sorry to burst your bubble!
But the good news is that you’re actually much closer to successful fundraising than you think. And you don’t need a pitch deck to get there.
Successful fundraising is a conversation, not a pitch.
Most fundraising asks are just a blip of time in a bigger relationship. It’s much more important that you spend the time developing the relationship, understanding your donor’s values, needs and interests and then matching that to your organization’s needs and ambitions.
If you do that right, your ask will be successful, regardless of what you have printed in front of the donor.
So, how do you have an effective conversation?
Listen. Really listen. Ask questions. Why is that person a good prospective donor? Why do they care about the work of your organization?
I was guest speaking at a local fundraising management class earlier this week and the students asked what made for a great fundraiser, and in particular, major gifts fundraiser. My answer was simple – curiosity.
Be curious and have meaningful conversations.
Also, be curious about your organization. Most of you wear many hats and know your organization deeply, but if you’re role is exclusively fundraising, you also need to know the ins and outs of your organization’s work.
The magic happens when you can find points where the donor’s passions intersect with the organization’s work. That’s where the ask lies. Or more accurately, the successful ask.
Once you have that ask, it’s a simple and straightforward conversation.
A conversation allows you room for course correction to get to “yes”.
You should have a good starting point for your ask, but it’s never perfect. With a pitch, you go in with one idea, one package and have little room to involve the donor in feedback. With a conversation, the donor can help create the giving opportunity, which means they are much more likely to find it meaningful and of course say “yes”.
Every donor is different and when you understand those differences, your fundraising will go from good to great. Don’t get bogged down in a pitch deck or other fancy materials. Those can be nice, but they are a nice after thought, not a condition of your fundraising success.
If you focus on curiosity, conversations, understanding and engagement and having print materials and presentations won’t matter.