Rob Katz

Social Capital Markets: 10 Tips on Pitching Your Social Venture

Guest blogger Jill Finlayson is the Marketing Manager of Social Edge, the leading online community by and for social entrepreneurs. ?She is a graduate of UC Berkeley, with a degree in Political Economy. ?This post first appeared on Social Edge.

By Jill Finlayson

Yesterday was Blog Action Day with a focus on poverty. Looking at this topic through the lens of the Social Capital Conference held this week, there is hope and a rising tide of interest in investing in social enterprise (for profit, hybrid, and not for profit) as one way of directing resources toward solving problems of equity and environment (the latter also disproportionately impacts the poor).?

I am reminded of a comment made by one of the founders of B Corporation some time ago when he was pitching his venture – he pointed out that with most revenue passing through for-profit companies, to really affect change, you need to change the private sector. This conference helped spotlight those opportunities and the interest by entrepreneurs, family funds, grantmakers, and investors alike, in bringing about change on a significant scale. It was a rare ray of positive light in the otherwise bleak financial landscape.?

I participated in the panel on online communities with colleagues from Just Means, Changents, and And perhaps the most unifying point was the desire to help people connect with social entrepreneurs and causes they care about, and enable them to take action.? Whether choosing to work for ethical companies, buy locally grown organic foods, or support social entrepreneurs, people are coming together as powerful tribes demanding and causing change.

But they need help, and that is where the social entrepreneur comes in.? As Seth Godin says in his book Tribes, “there are now more tribes, smaller tribes, influential tribes, horizontal and vertical tribes, and tribes that could never have existed before … All of it is worthless if you don’t decide to lead. … The market needs you (we need you) and the tools are there, just waiting. All that’s missing is you, and your vision and your passion.”

So with that in mind, and because Social Edge is all about practical, tactical tips, I’d like to share with you some of the great insights about how to pitch your social venture from the SoCap conference.? Whether you are pitching your social venture to investors or grant makers, the tips from the session were packed with concise guidelines for successful pitching. Here are the take-aways in a nutshell:

  1. Get a warm introduction.? It’s all about the networking, baby, and if you don’t know how to find and cultivate the connections you need, check out Beth Kanter’s secret sauce to pumping up your professional network on Social Edge.
  2. Anticipate.? Allow yourself plenty of runway and pitch from a position of strength.? Saying “I need money now or I won’t make payroll next week” does not instill confidence.
  3. Have a clear strategy and seek those who are looking for you.? Know what stage your organization is at, and what stage the funder supports (seed, early stage, growth, late stage). Don’t ask for money from people who do not fund organizations at your stage. And depending on your stage: Seed level needs to show they can attract top talent and build a team. Growth stage needs more than a team in place, they need to demonstrate that they can develop and manage talent – a leadership pipeline.
  4. Look at the funder’s portfolio.? If they have been successful with similar ventures – great!? If they have been burned by similar ventures – it’s a hard sell and probably not worth your time.
  5. Tell a good story – what makes a good story?
    1. Eye-catching statistics and a problem that resonates.? Clearly state the problem and your solution (what you are doing now), proposed expansion and path to scalability (what’s next), and what is needed to increase impact (what they can do to help).
    2. Who you are. Show you are a galvanizer with tenacity. It’s not the time to be shy.
    3. Who’s on your team. Show that you know how to pick and recruit top talent with very relevant experience.
    4. Who’s on your board. They want to see that super influential expert in your field stake their reputation on your endeavor.? Funders can’t be the subject matter expert in every area so they look for those with unique knowledge to back you.
    5. Great aha moment that makes an emotional connection. What got you into your venture? The beneficiary view on the lasting, significant impact of your endeavor.
  6. Plan for 5 minutes (and cover all the important points) but be prepared to speak for an hour.? Too often people are cut off at the knees before they get to their point.
  7. Be ready for “No”. A lukewarm response means no.? Don’t let them string you along.? You probably have 10-15 prospects, get to an answer and move on. Time is precious.
  8. “No” is not bad. If you get to pitch, you are already successful.? They are not passing on the opportunity based on the merits of your program but rather based on the fit with their priorities. Find out: What about the venture concerns them? Why is it not a good fit for them at this time? Who would this project be a better fit for and would they share your proposal/business plan with them?
  9. Keep the conversation going.? You are selling yourself and your vision.? Continue to get advice and offer your help and expertise.? Be authentic and share your passion for the issue.
  10. Avoid the big Red Flag:? A weak, unformed, or uncommitted management team is the kiss of death for investors.