Adapted from the internationally acclaimed Dragons’ Den television series, this interactive session, which concluded The Trialogue CSI Conference 2016, gave representatives from three carefully-selected NPOs (St Joseph’s Care and Support Trust, South African National Council for the Blind and The Sozo Foundation) the unique opportunity to pitch a project to a panel of judges, and receive detailed feedback, empowering them with expert advice about how to hone their pitching and fundraising skills.
The session was chaired by founding and managing director of Trialogue, Nick Rockey, and judged by Chris Bornman (Eskom Development Foundation), Angie Maloka (MTN SA Foundation) and Mthobeli Tengimfene (Vodacom Foundation).
Bornman stressed the importance of presenting or submitting a written proposal that sells the organisation from the outset. “You must sell your organisation in the first paragraph or the first three minutes – contextualise it.”
Tengimfene agreed that contextualisation was important. “Don’t start by telling me about poverty in South Africa. You need to pitch it at the right level. Give me the technical information about your project specifically. Tell us who you are, who sits on your board – I want to be associated with someone that I know. If you have other donors, I want to know who they are.”
The next round of feedback tackled the way in which funding is requested. “You have to make your pitch innovative and talk to the core of my company,” said Maloka. “I come from MTN, so technology is what we look at. How can we use technology as an enabler to help with cutting costs?”
Bornman added, “The one thing that NPOs must realise is that budgets are stretched to the hilt. We get thousands of applications. So, for instance, if you need adult nappies, go to Huggies or Dis-Chem – this is not our area.”
Maloka added that applicants should identify their biggest overheads and work out where their own beneficiaries could help to address their needs, rather than anticipating handouts. “Economic times are now so hard, even for donors like us, budgets are very tight. Can you get your beneficiaries or their families to contribute time to cut down on your overheads like cleaning or laundry, so that you are getting them to become actively involved?”
Tengimfene pointed out that applicants are unlikely to get 100% of their funding from one organisation. “I move back when somebody is asking for 100%. You won’t get the whole 360 from me, so break it down: this is what I have raised, this is the target I have missed, this is what I want, and this is what I have the potential to get from other people.”
Maloka agreed. “You need to prioritise. Talk to my priorities as a funder. If we are not able to fund everything, which one will really take the burden off you?”
Tengimfene then brought the conversation around to another issue: what happens to the funds once they are donated? “One of the most important aspects is accountability,” he said.
In summary, Rockey highlighted a few key issues:
- Try to create shared value. Speak to your donors about their focus areas. Customise and align your approach in terms of what your donors can provide. Ask for resources, not just a cash requirement.
- Understand your donor’s needs. Do they need skills development points, BEE points or enterprise development points?
- Every NPO has a story that can bring people close to tears. Even though you must provide facts and figures, remember to tell your story from the heart.
- Speak about the specific problems that you are dealing with in your areas.
- Make sure that there are embedded monitoring and evaluation systems, so that you can provide evidence and track the outcomes.