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Running or Starting a Nonprofit? 6 Ways to Improve Your Fundraising Presentation

A good pitch can make your fundraising far more successful.

There are more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S.* That makes for a lot of organizations engaged in fundraising. How can your nonprofit possibly compete? As any of the best business schools will tell you, success begins with getting the right people’s attention. In the case of fundraising, that means you need to deliver memorable and motivating presentations to your key donors. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.

Know Your Audience

One of the secrets to successful fundraising is that a presentation is not only about the people or cause your nonprofit is trying to help. It’s also about the potential donors in the room. Why should they want to help you? What makes your cause more important to them than all the other causes they could be giving to? If you can answer these questions, you can win over your audience. Take the time to research the attitudes and backgrounds of your potential donors so you can find ways to effectively relate your cause to their lives and desires.

Running or Starting a Nonprofit? 6 Ways to Improve Your Fundraising Presentation

Begin With an Attention-Grabber

Even if you have a captive audience, you still need to capture their attention. Boredom is your enemy. So begin your presentation with something that piques your audience’s interest. There are multiple ways to do this, but the two primary ways are to begin with something personal (such as using names and/or pictures of those in your audience) or begin with something novel (a graphic, fact, or action that is completely different than what the audience is used to or what they might be expecting). You don’t want to do anything that undermines the seriousness of your cause, but you do want to ensure your audience is engaged from the first moment.

Tell a Good Story

Stories help us connect the ideas that frame our world to the emotions that motivate us to act. In fact, the idea-to-emotion connection is so tied to storytelling—and so important to the way we communicate—that our brains have a positive chemical response when we hear a good story. That’s why the majority of your fundraising presentation should be framed as a story. Explain your cause in the context of a narrative and make the giving of funds the key turning point to that story. This is not something to be done extemporaneously. Write out your story and practice its delivery multiple times before your presentation. A good story that connects with your audience can be the difference between a presentation that succeeds and one that doesn’t.

Choose a Few, Key Specifics

You do not need to describe every detail of your nonprofit or include years or decades worth of information on your nonprofit’s work. Stay focused on the specific story you’re telling and give just enough supporting detail to convince your audience of your organization’s competency. If you try to relate every fact and detail, you’ll likely bog yourself down and lose your audience’s attention.

Use the Right Visual Aids

Most presentations use PowerPoint slides or a series of boards (or both). When choosing your visual aids, remember the old adage: a picture is worth a thousand words. The best visual aids illustrate what you’re saying and add a level of verisimilitude and/or immediacy. If you’re using charts, make sure they’re interesting to look at and simple to comprehend. If you’re using a slide or a board that includes only words, use as few words as possible. The last thing you want to do is stand and read from your slides or boards. The stronger your visual aids, the stronger your story.

Earn a Specialized Business Degree

There is a lot of overlap between business management and nonprofit management. That’s why many nonprofit managers could benefit from a management degree such as a master’s in management. But if you really want to put yourself in position to lead a nonprofit, a great master’s degree for you to earn is an MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. This MS degree can help you gain the critical skills you need to lead diverse and complex nonprofit organizations, and help lead successful fundraising efforts. What if you don’t want to take time off from your career to earn a graduate degree? Thanks to online education, you don’t have to. When you enroll in an online MS in Nonprofit Management program, you can complete your coursework on a flexible schedule designed for those working full time. If you want to improve your fundraising and become a leader in the nonprofit sector, enrolling in an online graduate degree program focused on nonprofit business management can help you reach your goals.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

*National Center for Charitable Statistics, Quick Facts About Nonprofits, on the Internet at

†P. J. Zak, Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling, Harvard Business Review, on the Internet at