Pitching For A Yes, Part 2: Developing Your Pitch

Sponsorship StrategiesThis post is the sixth in a series designed to open you up to a new way of viewing sponsors and their role within your nonprofit’s overall strategy. These posts are based on the “Sponsorship Strategy: Recruiting and Keeping Sponsor Partners” eBook from the Greater Giving Fundraising Excellence Series. Each new post focuses on a different part of your sponsor strategy and how best to leverage your value for the greatest mutual benefit. View all released series articles—Sponsorship Strategy

In Part 1 of “Pitching for a Yes,”  I discussed exploring the value you have to offer a potential sponsor before crafting your pitch. Now that you’ve done some honest self-assessment, it’s time to put all the pieces together and make an ask that your sponsor can’t turn away.

But I’m nervous about asking for money

I know—pitching a business for a big sponsorship is daunting, even if you’re not new to fundraising. But try to think of it this way: you’re not simply asking for a donation. You’re proposing a business arrangement, where you exchange the value you have to offer as a nonprofit for sponsorship dollars. You and your potential sponsor both benefit equally! Businesses wouldn’t sponsor nonprofits regularly if there wasn’t value in it.

But if you’re still feeling nervous, read on. I have lots of great tips on how to make your pitch as persuasive as possible, and making your sponsor receptive to it.data

Prepare well

The best way to settle your nerves is to come to your meeting prepared. Find out what the sponsor needs, what they want, and what holds value for them—so that you can swoop in and offer it.

Have an information-gathering meeting  before you make your ask so you know what your potential sponsor is looking for in a sponsor relationship, then explore how you can meet those needs.

Make your value tangible

TIP: Do you remember your English teacher telling you, “Avoid the passive voice”? This is a good time to bring back all that stuff you learned in high school about writing. Instead of a sentence like, one thousand homeless people are served by our food kitchen, reorganize it to be more active: We serve over one thousand homeless in our efficient food kitchen. Your whole pitch should be active and avoid meandering.

In my previous post  I talked about how to assess your value points—like the unique things that only your organization can offer, the average size and makeup of your audience, or your more lucrative government or business connections.

Let’s say you’ve done some surveying, and people who support your organization tend to skew over age 60. Businesses always like seeing market data, and you could pitch this demographic information to a business that serves older people in your community.

Or perhaps you discover most of your event attendees prefer wine over beer; a perfect opportunity to offer a partnership to a local winery.

Look for those magic places where something your organization can uniquely offer that would benefit that sponsor. Search for lanes where your vision overlaps. For example: they’re a tech company, and your education nonprofit prepares kids for college. You both want to see tech literacy among youth. Your mission and goals are similar enough that supporting each other makes sense.

So what are the nuts and bolts of a pitch?

Pitches have a fairly simple formula that you can supplant with your own information. Here’s a good template to go by:

Your opener. Now that you know what interests your potential sponsor, use that to lead them into your pitch with an interesting fact, specific achievement, or piece of trivia about your nonprofit. Let’s say you’re a literacy organization courting a local bookseller; you could start by telling them about the 1,000 books you got into young readers’ hands last year.lift-719362_960_720

Your elevator pitch. You should already have what we call an “elevator pitch”: a short, one- or two-sentence summary of your nonprofit’s core mission. The formula for an elevator pitch is goal and method. What do you do, and how do you do it? 

  • Consider your daily functions—what work you put every day into achieving your vision. Perhaps you’re an animal shelter, and you always have to feed, stimulate, and provide medical care for animals. This is a central function of your nonprofit.
  • How does this work relate to your overall mission? Let’s say that your vision is to find homes for all the animals in your shelter. What work do you do to promote adoption and bring in more potential pet owners?
  • Why does what you do matter? End your elevator pitch with something concrete—an achievement your sponsor can take home. Here’s an example of an elevator pitch:

“Every day we feed and care for hundreds of homeless pets looking for forever homes. A team of volunteers house-trains our dogs and cats so they are more likely to be adopted. Since we began advertising to promote the value of pet ownership, we have seen a 150% increase in animals adopted.”
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Show how effective you are at what you do. Throughout your pitch, share examples of how your organization has succeeded at its mission. Perhaps you’ve seen a dramatic drop in child hunger in your area since your food bank began its outreach program. Use numbers and specific examples to show why dollars donated are effective and further the mission.

Lastly, stress the long-term nature of your mission. Later, when you ask for a long-term commitment, you’ll be able to refer back to your pitch and how a multi-year partnership is the best way to support your mission and achieve your mutual goals.

End your pitch by clearly outlining how you, and only you, can help

While you assemble the pieces of your pitch, focus on what aspects of the business’s operations, reach, or new marketing initiatives you can help to enhance.

glasses-272401_960_720For example, a local business who chooses to sponsor your next event could reach 450-500 new eyes at that event alone. This is a number that could hold tangible value for a business hoping to expand their reach.

Or let’s say you’re courting an athletic equipment company. A sponsorship of your next jog-a-thon would make great practical sense—your sponsor could host a booth for their new product on site and get that product in front of hundreds of athletic-minded people.

Frame your value in terms of how you can further specific business objectives you’ve already learned about in your previous meeting and research.

Get critique

TIP: Pregnant pauses are both totally fine, and encouraged! Instead of saying a word like “umm” or “uhh” to fill the space while you think, simply let yourself be silent for a few moments. It lends gravitas to your words and helps you sound professional.

Once you’ve got the bones of your pitch put together, rehearse it in front of anyone at your organization with relevant experience—such as staff members who have done fundraising before, or board members with experience as key decision-makers.

And when do you have feedback, implement it! Listen to how people receive your pitch, both in terms of substance, and presentation. Make changes and try again, as many times as it takes. Rehearse!

Your ability to pitch well relies a lot on your public speaking skills. Try to avoid saying “um.” Avoid wringing your hands or making any distracting movements while you talk.

You got this!

For an in-depth look into the strategy and a detailed action plan, download the Sponsorship Strategies eBook.
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