Need Help with Non-Profit Presentations
January 26, 2009 3:03 PM   Subscribe

I'm starting up a new non-profit organization and need some help streamlining my message for presentations and explanation, but I've not had any success looking for such information. I need to know what I should be looking for in terms of vocabulary, etc.

So... More info.

I work for a non-profit at the moment, so I have some experience with this, but I've never been the one who had to streamline the message.

I know what I'm doing, I know how I'm doing it. But my explanation is kind of long and I need some tips (and ideally a process/worksheet) on streamlining the presentation (to about 20 minutes) for people I may want to involve and perhaps donate later on.

Normal business presentations only have a slight impact on what I'm doing, or so it appears so far, so I'd appreciate any help possible.
posted by Gideon to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You need to demonstrate how you are not duplicating services offered by another organization. You need to explain what exactly you will do with the money, what your first years budget is, how you will become self-sufficient, and who your people are and what are their backgrounds.

Brochures pointing to websites are your friend. 20 minute presentations, not so much. You should be the voice of the org right now, get yourself a board, even if it's just a founding board, and let them advocate for you in the community.

I kind of honestly find it surprising that with an unregistered NPO anyone is letting you do 20 minute presentations to them. :)
posted by TomMelee at 3:47 PM on January 26, 2009

Stick to the tangibles. Its easy in the non-profit world to get tied up in the "relationships" and politics and other dreamland fluff. Describe in bullet points exactly what you are going to do, step by step and have an overarching paragraph or two that explains what your plans are in plain english.

as a side note: make sure you really can explain your non-profit's mission in a paragraph or two. Its not just important for talking to other people, its important for your own clarity when the project gets moving. I've always thought the Red Cross's about us section was pretty good. Start by writing something like that for your organization and then flesh out parts of it with detail for your presentation.
posted by mjcon at 4:38 PM on January 26, 2009

Here's a kind of nice little article about how to talk about your mission and activities to people outside the industry. Not sure who your audience is, that always comes first, but the "features tell benefits sell" concept is golden. It's specific to fundraising and marketing, but I think is good general advice as well.

I broke this down for a recent fund appeal by choosing our three major "products" (we're actually a theater) and describing to myself the Activity (Main Stage shows)-Accomplishment (only theater presenting this repertoire)-Promise-(a great night at the theater for the whole family).

haven't tested it yet with real people, but it was easy to write, usually a clue that you're talking sense in this business.

Memail me for a copy of the notes or the letter if you like.
posted by nax at 4:54 PM on January 26, 2009

Response by poster: I'm sorry, I wasn't clear enough...

I'm not concerned right now about the budget, the board, etc. Right now I'm keeping it unincorporated and won't be seeking donors until all that happens (if it happens.) But what I do will be wrapped up in interviewing individuals (professionals) and I need to be able to convince them to do it. This is something no one else appears to be doing, and something I can do without any money (or at least, money outside my own pockets) for some time to see how well it works.

So this isn't the conventional "give us money" pitch, it's "I've got this idea.. I think it's a good one.. I'd like you be involved" pitch. It'll be "let's sit down to coffee and lunch and let me tell you about this." I'm looking for feedback and potentially involvement.

I do plan on the standard mission/vision statement (and the work will be primarily driven by the web) as well as an 'elevator" pitch.

So far all my meetings have been going well, but I know these people fairly well. I'll eventually be talking to individuals I don't know as well and just want to be respectful of their time and succinct in my description. My work other work will get me in the door to the see them, but I'm not the one who usually makes the pitch.

Thanks for everything so far! Keep it coming! Some great help!
posted by Gideon at 5:21 PM on January 26, 2009

This is jargon - but make sure you mention measurable "outputs" and "outcomes." You don't have to use that language, but it helps to understand the distinction and talk about your organization's impact in concrete terms. "Outputs" are simple quantifiables - widgets delivered, people helped, manuals written, meals served. "Outcomes" are the changes created by the outputs - positive changes in public health, greater self-sufficiency, better qualified staff. Emphasize things that can be shown or measured so that your audience becomes confident that you know what you want to accomplish and will know when you're achieving it. That is a poor explanation, but you can Google. People today are very interested in demonstrations of impact, and showing concrete results or expected results can be very persuasive. Be clear and honest about what you expect those to be, and make sure they are reasonable and realistic enough that when you go back in a year, you can show success rather than have to say that you fell far short of goals.
posted by Miko at 5:25 PM on January 26, 2009

I work for a nonprofit, and last year I sat on a founding board for another and am now a member-at-large.

There were 2 of us who said "hey this would be a good idea." So we said:
1. Does it exist? Nope, step 2.
2. Do we have the resources to make it exist? Money? No. Qualified people we've worked with in the past or have connections to? Yes. Step 3.
3. "Hey person I've worked with in the past, let's do lunch. What do you think about this idea?" step 4
4. 2 people became 4. 4 became 6, and lo and behold we had a founding board.
5. Write bylaws.
6. Incorporate.
6a. Recruit a real board.
7. ???
8. Profit!

All but 7 and 8 are for real. Now we're a year down the road with 4 staff positions, a 26,000 ft2 building purchased with a USDA loan, and are staged to provide support for 120 individuals w/ specialized programming plus several thousand others through our community outreach and facility by the end of the year.

We never presented to people we didn't have professional experience with in the same category/market. Incorporating is the challenging part. Once you're there and have a brochure and website, getting people onboard is the easy part.
posted by TomMelee at 7:08 PM on January 26, 2009

Best answer: The biggest, simplest idea (or problem your company addresses) is your opener, to spark their interest. Then expand on it with your solution and simplified plan, the most important points. It can be fairly general, you don't have to give many details upfront -- that's for later when they're already hooked and start asking you questions on specifics.

Making a powerpoint presentation is a decent idea, to help you lay it out logically (problem, solution, method, estimated timeline?). For a 20 minute presentation you probably should make around 20 slides. Time yourself, and after a few runs you'll be comfortable and natural and won't sweat (too bad) in front of new people.

When it comes to using special vocabulary, if a word isn't going to roll off your tongue like you use the word everyday, don't bother. The pitch should be comfortable so you can be confident giving it. If you've done enough research into the project to be able to give investors answers to their questions, you should know what jargon is used in that particular kind of business.

Oh, and get a business card if you don't already. Show you're serious and get some proper ones made too, they're not that expensive.
posted by lizbunny at 9:44 PM on January 26, 2009

Best answer: Here's how I've streamlined my message.

Drive around (or, bike I guess, with ideally something like a motorcycle helmet on. You're looking for the zen state created by travel combined with an echo so you can hear yourself). Try to give your presentation to an imagined stranger. When I did this, I had my speech printed out on the seat beside me. I would try to say a section out loud, and it became obvious where I was being wordy or academic or flummoxed. Sometimes, I'd say to myself, "look, what I'm trying to say here is..." and cut entire sentences out that way. I went from a 55 minute draft speech to a 12 minute speech this way, so it worked in my situation.
posted by salvia at 12:09 AM on January 27, 2009

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