Raising money requires awareness. If people don’t know you’re there, they can’t support you.

No one wakes up in the morning and randomly picks a nonprofit to give to. People give to charities they’ve heard of and trust.

The way to generate buzz is to get in front of people who are likely to want to support your work. In other words, you have to spread the word about the work you’re doing. You have to be proactive about it. Don’t wait for people to find you. You have to go out and find them.

One tried and true method for spreading the word about the work your organization does (and building support for your mission at the same time) is public speaking. It’s a great way to let people know what your nonprofit does, and fights the “best-kept-secret-in-town” syndrome.

Here are three steps to ensuring you get the biggest results from your speaking gigs:

1. Create a powerful 20-30 minute presentation. No one wants to hear a boring speaker. And there’s no doubt in my mind that you have amazing things to share. So, here’s a way to put together a fantastic presentation that will have audiences genuinely interested and eager to find out how they can help:

  • Start with a whiplash statistic to get their attention. Something like this: “1 in every 8 people in our community will go hungry today” or “Every day in our town, over 15 perfectly loving cats and dogs are euthanized.” This stat helps set up the problem that your nonprofit is here to fight.
  • Next, share a story about someone who’s life has been changed (or saved) by the work your nonprofit does. Tell it using a “before and after” format – tell what life was like before your nonprofit helped, and what life is like now.
  • Finally, share a Call to Action with your audience. Tell them how they have the power to join your nonprofit in changing more lives by giving, volunteering, or something else. Ask them to sign up to learn more about the work your nonprofit is doing by giving you their email address (so you can communicate more with them later).

2. Find places where you can share your powerful presentation. Start with local civic groups (Rotary, Kiwanis, Civitan, Lions, etc.). Your local library or chamber of commerce probably has a list of clubs that meet in your area. Email the club President or Program person and ask to speak to the group. Most of these groups have weekly programs and they’re always looking for speakers. Also reach out to local church groups (Womens groups, Mens groups, Sunday School classes, etc.) for the opportunity to speak.

Announce on social media and in your newsletter that you’re looking for places to speak. You’ll be amazed at the opportunities that will show up just because you ask!

Consider videoing your presentation and sharing the link on your website. This is an easy way to share with lots of people! Ask your Board, volunteers, staff, Facebook followers, and everyone else to share the link with their friends. If you have a really good presentation, your video will likely get lots of views.

3. Track your results. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Keep a log of the dates and places where you speak, the number of people in the audience, and what comes of it (people who ask to volunteer, immediate donations, offers for additional speaking opportunities, etc.). Over time, you’ll see the tangible benefit of the time and energy you’ve invested in spreading the word.

You need supporters in order to fulfill your mission and change lives. I challenge you to set a goal of one speaking gig per week so you can build momentum for your cause and stop being the best kept secret in town.

  1. What a great subject to share Elise! So few remember, or are confident enough, to consider public speaking in their awareness building efforts. Two suggestions I would add: 1) join Toastmasters and get the experience and support needed to become a truly effective speaker, and 2) when sharing the whiplash statistic, involve the audience in illustrating the number. Have them experience the impact of “1 in 8” people by raising hands or remaining standing. It will draw the audience in to your speech so much more than simply sharing the statistic. Great post!

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