Pitch Decks for Potential Donors

Priya Iyer, Tulalens’ founder/CEO, and Vilas Dhar, Next Mile Project’s founder who has extensive background in nonprofit-philanthropy interaction, led this week’s Lunch and Learn about creating pitch decks for potential donors. We’ve detailed best practices for pitch decks below, using Tulalens as an example:

Before you start your pitch deck:

Potential donors typically decide within the first minute of reviewing a pitch deck whether they are interested in supporting your cause. Therefore, presentations need to lead with essential information and have a refined, clear message.

Use Powerpoint or similar platforms like Keynote or Prezi, which allow you to separate information into concise, visually-appealing slides. Aim for 10-12 slides.

When meeting with an individual donor, nonprofits will often be asked to send their pitch deck ahead of time. These presentations need to stand alone and convey important information without a representative in the room who can verbally explain the content. Slides with pictures only are a wasted opportunity.

Within your pitch, address the essential questions potential donors will want answered:

What does your nonprofit do?

Since pitch decks should be to-the-point, an effective presentation immediately calls attention to the important work your nonprofit does. Your very first introduction/title slide should serve multiple functions. It should at least have your organization’s logo, contact information, and few strategic words that describe your mission.

For example:

Tulalens shares crowdsourced information on the quality of clinics in India’s urban slums to improve pregnant womens’ healthcare experiences. Priya’s first slide may include:

  • Tulalens’ logo; Priya’s email/phone number
  • A photo of a pregnant woman in the slums of India
  • The phrase: “crowdsourcing healthcare information in India to connect women to high-quality health services”

These three elements immediately explain Tulalens’ mission, provide essential contact information, and visually hook the audience.     

Why should a donor care about your nonprofit’s work?

Establish the ‘need’ your organization aims to fill. What is the problem at hand? Why is it so severe? Provide statistics about the scope of the problem and the community you serve.  Do you have a specific anecdote that can provide an “emotional hook,” about the issue and how your nonprofit has helped? Offer a vision of the world you want to create, in a way that relates to your potential donor.

For example, Tulalens could cover the following information in one or two slides:

“There are clinics in India that force pregnant women in their last trimester to wait three hours with no available place to sit. There are clinics that steal babies then extort mothers to pay to get them back. Even after experiences such as these, women return to these clinics, unaware that there are many other institutions with better practices right next door. Tulalens can inform these expectant mothers about better options, empowering them to seeking superior care.”

Who are you? Why are you and your nonprofit worthy of a donation?

By this point, you have explained the “what” and the “why” of your organization. Now, convince potential donors you are the right person to bring about this much-needed change through your nonprofit. Establish your credibility.

Give an abbreviated story of how you arrived at this moment: your credentials, your experiences, and why you are so passionate about this cause. Do the same for your top one or two board members or colleagues.

How does your nonprofit accomplish its mission?

Explain the concrete ways your nonprofit addresses the problem you have identified. You have to instill confidence in the donor that you have a viable, effective solution worth investing in.

How much will it cost?

Establish the precise amount you’re asking for. A strong pitch deck will have brought your potential donors to feel connected to your nonprofit’s mission, engaged them, and incited them to donate. Now, instill confidence that their money will go to good use.

Tips to bear in mind:

  • While you want your pitch deck to come across well visually, content is far more important. Build your narrative first, then figure out how to make your pitch deck visually appealing.
  • The presentation should be concise, ideally 10-12 slides.
  • Information should be cited to establish credibility.
  • It is best to focus on what your organization is doing currently that is effectively creating change at this moment. However, mentioning the potential of how funding could help you reach future goals should be included at the end of your presentation.
  • It can be effective to acknowledge your nonprofit’s weaknesses (which may be called into question by potential donors); this, however, should be done without implying your current work is ineffective. If done correctly, acknowledging your weaknesses offers an opportunity to explain how funding would be used to increase the effectiveness of your work.
  • Potential donors would rather know about the one or two most important people working with the organization than see a list of all those involved. They want to know who you are, and about the most important people backing your organization; they do not need to see a long list of all your board members, partners, advisors, and everyone on your team.