It is so exciting when your charity is invited to pitch for a corporate partnership, but you only get one shot at it. So what can you do to give yourself the best possible chance of winning?
Make an impact
Age Concern began a pitch to a major company in an extraordinary way. We were the last charity to present and we anticipated that the panel would be tired after a long day. We knew we wanted to grab their attention from the beginning, so we walked into the room with a tray full of glasses and two bottles of wine.
One of the bottles was a cheap wine and the other was vintage. We covered the labels of the bottles and asked the panel to taste both of the wines. We asked them which they preferred and they all chose the vintage. Then we said, “Isn’t it interesting how with wine and cars and cheese the older they get the more we value them, but we don’t have the same attitude to human beings.”
The wine tasting enabled us to make an immediate impact on the panel and we were selected to go through to the next stage of the pitch-process.
Tell a powerful story
When I was at Alzheimer’s Society we won Tesco charity of the year for 2011.
Months before we were invited to pitch we started searching for someone connected with the charity who had also worked for Tesco. And we found someone.
We found a woman who had worked for Tesco and had developed dementia. After her diagnosis Alzheimer’s Society met with Tesco and she stayed on in her job with extra support from colleagues around her. We filmed the woman and her daughter telling their story. It was a powerful and inspirational film and was a major factor in winning the pitch.
Create tailored fundraising ideas
Companies want to be presented with fundraising ideas that are created just for them. It shows that the charity understands the company and it demonstrates the charity’s creativity and desire to develop a partnership.
When Alzheimer’s Society successfully pitched for Credit Suisse charity of the year, we knew we had to develop some bespoke fundraising ideas. In our research we discovered an interesting link between our two organisations. Credit Suisse was founded by Alfred Escher in 1856 in Zurich. Exactly 50 years later and only 171 miles away in Munich, Dr Alzheimer identified the first case of ‘pre-senile dementia’ that later became known as ‘Alzheimer’s Disease’.
We used this information to create a unique fundraising and cycling challenge for Credit Suisse. We called it, ‘From Escher to Alzheimer: The Credit Suisse Cycling Challenge’.
Turn your weakness into a strength
Richard Branson knows a fair bit about turning a weakness into a strength, having overcome dyslexia to become one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. He says, “Whenever something goes wrong or you find yourself at a disadvantage, often the best way to handle it is to turn a negative into a positive. I learned this early on.”
Action for Children won Tesco charity of the year for 1999 because we turned a weakness into a strength. When we were preparing the pitch we knew that our greatest weakness was our low brand awareness. We were genuinely concerned that it could lose us the pitch, so we decided that we had to address it in our presentation.
We dealt with the problem by turning it on its head. We said to Tesco, “Action for Children provides life-changing support to thousands of children across the UK, but most people have never heard of us. That means that a partnership with Tesco is a huge opportunity for Action for Children, because you can help make us famous.” In that moment we turned our weakness into a strength and gave Tesco a huge reason to choose us to be their charity.
Rehearse and rehearse and rehearse
The most successful pitches are made by teams that have rehearsed their pitch a number of times. This extra effort is worthwhile because you improve what you are saying, become more confident and really gel as a team.
When practicing your pitch it can be useful to invite some colleagues to be your audience and ask them to give constructive feedback at the end.
It’s also important that you practice answering questions after the presentation. The panel are bound to ask you some challenging questions, so it pays to anticipate those questions and have strong and succinct answers already prepared.