A few months ago I attended a lovely event that honored a few local nonprofit organizations. The audience was fairly diverse. There were more than a few well-heeled folks in attendance.
In other words: the event presented a fantastic opportunity for these organizations to get in front of potential contributors and expand their community of support or at the very least raise their visibility.
All three organizations, two of which have decent sized budgets, whiffed. And all three representatives followed the same outline. It went a bit like this:
I could feel the room going cold as each person spoke. There was no sense of connection or humanity. Just a bunch of words, ideas, and generalities. And no one included a call to action.
As each presenter spoke, I found myself getting unreasonably frustrated. These were great organizations doing important work and they were coming across as boring and inconsequential. There is NO REASON that every single person speaking on behalf of a nonprofit shouldn’t be able to deliver a 3 to 5 minute talk that connects with an audience, communicates not just what the organization does, but also why it’s important, and calls the audience to action, even if it’s just to visit their website.
Here’s a proven structure anyone can use that’s been used for hundreds of years to rally people to action:
Introduce yourself, both name and how you are related to the organization.
Share a story about the organization’s work that is meaningful to you. The ‘meaningful’ part is important. If you’re just sharing a random story, it won’t land. What connects you personally (and emotionally) to the story and to the work?
Note that the story puts people, not mission at the center. Don’t lead with the mission or with statistics.
No one cares about your organization yet and statistics have never convinced anyone of anything. The story is your opportunity to make them care. You have to connect before you convince.
For much more about building powerful stories and some of the research behind this approach, you can download my free book Building Leadership Stories. Click here to get a copy. (it really is free, no gimmick. This stuff is important and I want you to have it, cool? Cool.)
Once you have shared a specific story of change or transformation, expand to talk more generally about your organization’s work and mission. Some transitional phrases you might use include:
Whatever words you use, the basic idea is that you have established an emotionalconnection with your story. In this section, you speak more specifically to your mission, programs, and/or organizational history.
By now your audience is emotionally connected, they understand a bit about what your organization does and why. . .but they’re not sure how they can help. Conclude your brief presentation with a call to action. Here are some low barrier, compelling calls to action you can use:
I’ve left out ‘Contribute financially’ because unless you’re at a fundraiser, it’s usually not going to be your most powerful choice.
Whenever you present your cause at an event, you have a captive audience. If they are engaged, you’re actually doing them and your organization a disservice if you do not give them the chance to deepen their relationship with your work, a concrete next step to get involved.
After the call to action, say thank you, wave, bow, whatever and step away from the microphone. The whole speech should take no more than 3 to 5 minutes.
This is far from the only effective way to present your work, but it is an effective outline and a great place to start.
Whenever you have the chance to speak about your organization, mission, or work remember that, while you may eat, sleep, and breathe your mission, your audience does not. They have jobs, families, and myriad priorities of their own. Your job is to make your passion relevant to them. The structure above will help.
Good luck, friends!
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