There are a few questions I ask all of my clients before helping them write a speech. Who will be in the audience? What do you want them to do after hearing your speech? What do they need to believe to take action?

These questions are building blocks of an effective presentation. When it comes to fundraising talks, the third question is the most critical of all. Whether the speaker is aiming to raise funds for veterans, to minimize social determinants of health or assuage homeless LGBTQ youth, misconceptions about the demographic in need might be a hurdle the speaker needs overcome in order to get donations without reservations.

Someone once said, “The best gifts are always tied with heartstrings.”

As we move into the last phase of year-end giving, it is essential to know the power of tugging on heartstrings when it comes to delivering effective fundraising speeches. A successful presentation captures your audience’s attention through an artful blend of storytelling and facts about your mission. The address must explain, in an emotionally impactful way, a few key truths about the people your organization helps, why you support the mission (and why your guests should support it too—right now).

Your potential donors have likely been asked to support dozens of causes by this time of year so your speech must be brief and impactful. It also needs to be authentic to compel guests to give yet again. Below are do’s and don’ts to help you write a compelling fundraising speech.

DO:

  • Understand your audience and what they may or may not believe about the group in need. Be on the hunt for misconceptions that you need to clear up to reach into the hearts of donors.
  • Seek out recent success stories of beneficiaries of your organization’s work. Insert those stories to your speech using photos of the person if at all possible. Visuals are highly effective for fundraising speeches. It is important to note, however, that cultural competence is vital when using visuals. Be aware if the pictures you are displaying are trite, cliché’, or simply outdated perceptions of a particular demographic and don’t offend the very donors with whom you are trying to make an emotional connection.
  • Outline your speech, so there is a clear beginning, middle, and end with two-to-three statements you want your audience to remember. The statements should be short (but powerful) and are most impactful when embedded in the speech a few times.
  • Begin with high energy but take your audience on an emotional journey. Make them laugh. Make them misty-eyed. Make them understand. Make them FEEL. And make them BELIEVE change is possible…with their help.
  • Before going in for the ask, give an example of how much money it takes to solve the problem your organization is solving for one person. For example, “It takes $xxx a day to provide a warm bed, dinner, Metro passes, and laundry services for one vulnerable LGBTQ teen. It will take $xxxxx to provide those same services for one hundred. But the dollar amount is nominal compared to the lifetime impact it can have on the recipient.
  • Remind your guests how important they are and how much their contribution, no matter how small, matters to someone who is genuinely in need.
  • Explain why your organization was founded, where it has been, where it is going with the help of donors.
  • Tell listeners what will happen immediately after receiving their gifts (for the people who receive your services). For example, “The funds we raise tonight will immediately put to work by purchasing 12 bunk beds, backpacks with basic school supplies, etc.”

DON’T

  • Be long-winded. Keep the speech between four and ten minutes.
  • Make too many points. Four or less is best if you want to make an impact (and want your audience to remember what you’ve said!)
  • Be aimless in your storytelling. Make sure everything in your talk connects from beginning to end and only what is essential to drive home “the ask” is included. No random facts or data that are not necessary for this particular event.
  • Do not make it all about the organization. Make your talk about your audience and the recipients of the services your organization provides.
  • Do not use visuals to store what you plan to say (no slides with bullet points that you read aloud). Slides with bullet points and text almost always guarantee your audience will read ahead of you and quickly turn their attention to something else. The most effective way to use slides is for images that drive home one of your key points. There is no rule that you must use a slide throughout your entire presentation (or use them at all). To keep the audience’s attention on you and your message, avoid giving listeners opportunities to read ahead, which ultimately means they’ve disconnected with you. You don’t want them to connect to slides. You want them to connect with Slides should only be used to support your stories and key points.

Whether you plan to write your speech, use a speech writing service or hire a professional speechwriter to craft a custom talk, you must keep all of this in mind. Following these guidelines will help you land your speech in a meaningful way and compel your audience to open their hearts and their wallets. Remember…not only are “the best gifts always tied with heartstrings,” but…

“Donors don’t give to institutions. They invest in ideas and people in whom they believe.” -G.T. Smith

If you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share, feel free to leave them in the comments! Thanks for reading this post.

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