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Perfecting your first pitch to a grantmaker

Your introduction to a grantmaker can be a nerve-wracking experience, but it’s an important entry-point in the grantmaking process. “First impressions go a long way, so make you opening pitch count!” said Holly Thompson, contributing editor to the Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Most people don’t relish the idea of having a “cold conversation” with a complete stranger. A good way of lessening the anxiety is to have a rehearsed and ready introduction, or “elevator pitch,” in your back pocket for when you meet a potential funder.

When crafting and delivering your pitch, Thompson suggests the following :

  • Write it down: Don’t shoot from the hip. Write yourself a short script so you have something to practice from and revise as you go along.
  • Make it clear, short and sincere: Don’t use jargon or acronyms and don’t be wordy — choose simple language that conveys your main points quickly. Limit your pitch to 30 seconds (at most), and be sure that it sounds like something you would normally say.
  • Say who you are and what you’re looking for: Begin with the basics: “My name is [name], I’m a [title, role] at [organization, group].” Next, state briefly what your organization does and for whom. Use your mission statement as a starting point, but be sure you use everyday language. End you pitch by stating what you are seeking, e.g., information, advice, resources, introductions.
  • Listen: Often the easiest thing to do when you’re nervous is to keep talking. Be sure to show you’re here to listen, as well. Remember that your pitch is an opening to a two-way conversation (not a monologue).
  • Practice, practice, practice: Say your pitch out loud to a colleague, friend or family member and get their feedback. Was it clear? Interesting? Too slow or too fast?

“The best way to hone your pitch is to deliver it in real time,” noted Thompson, “so have your pitch ready when you’re at a conference or community event, or when you have an opening for an introductory call.” In time, says Thompson, your pitch will come naturally, and the more comfortable you feel, the more fun and exciting it will be to network with grantmakers.

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