Need Funding? Make. Every. Word. Count.

Whether your goal is to bring your entrepreneurial vision to the masses or carry out the mission of a nonprofit, your success in the search for funds will undoubtedly rest upon your ability to develop and share a good story.

Just how do you craft that story? No problem here thanks to Seth Rigoletti of Valico Group and his 10 basic steps to persuasive communication. At a workshop hosted by Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, Rigoletti illustrated with quick wit and confidence how each of these steps will help you prepare for any conversation with a potential investor or donor:

  1. Core message that can be said in one sentence.
    This step sets the stage for your ask, forcing you to clarify exactly what is so special about your cause. AND it is also the sentence that will make your listeners say, “Wow, tell me more.” If your core message can’t be said in one sentence, you don’t have a core message yet. Keep working.
  2. Organize your pitch:
    a. Tell them the problem.
    b. Tell them your solution.
    c. So what?
    This is my favorite question: when you can answer this question without becoming defensive, you are well on your way to achieving your goal. ALWAYS be ready for this question.
  3. Be simple, not simplistic. (No jargon unless specifically asked.)
    Simple here means clear language that someone not in your field can understand. Do not confuse being simple with being condescending. Condescension = game over and you lose.
  4. Be Bold. Trust yourself. Self-doubt is not invited.
    Check your insecurity and self-doubt at the door; do not let them eat away at your credibility. Enter the room as an expert, prepared to defend your idea.
  5. Communicate your passion for the idea by revealing your excitement in its possibilities.
    Make it clear why you’re doing this work. We don’t pay tune in to boring; if you’re not enthusiastic, why should prospective investors or donors pay attention to you?
  6. Don’t expect or need anything from anyone. (Wanting is okay, neediness not so much.)
    Desperation is not your friend here.
  7. Be concrete in your examples. (Practice them on your friends.)
    The example Rigoletti had here was President John F. Kennedy’s request for funding from Congress: “[T]his nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”  Boom: concrete, challenging, clear.
  8. Use stories (real or imagined) to convey and illustrate the value of the idea.
    Everyone – yes, everyone – loves a good story. If you’re introducing a new product or program, begin with “Imagine the impact of…” or “Imagine the possibilities when…” and refine, refine, refine.
  9. Give them a reason other than wealth for following you.
    Their investment needs to go past your fortune and fame. Explain how the world is a better place because of this endeavor.
  10. Be honest and humble. “I don’t know” isn’t a death sentence as long as you can follow it up with what you do know.
    You’re bound to run into a question that will require you to answer by either
    (a) saying “I don’t know” or (b) making something up. Choose option (a).  This is where that boldness and preparation will save the day for you. You can be vulnerable here without being weak. It’s powerful when you are able to confidently say “I don’t know, but what we do know is …”

As you walk through and re-visit these 10 steps, keep in mind that the goal is for the audience to see the problem and solution through your eyes. This will happen when you:

  • Have a clear one-sentence core message
  • Convey your passion through concrete examples / illustrations
  • Trust yourself and your audience

The beauty of storytelling is that the story never ends. As Rigoletti advises: wash, rinse, repeat.

About Deb

Deb Nelson, principal of deb nelson consulting, is a creative storyteller. She designs and implements communication plans that leverage strategic partnerships and provide innovative solutions for her clients. You can find her on twitter at @nelliedeb.

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