#20: 5 strategies for pitching your social impact to funders
Are you a social entrepreneur or leader pitching to customers or funders? You need to articulate your impact with clarity and show how it ties directly to revenue generation, whether you’re running a social enterprise or nonprofit.
When pitching, illustrate and/or talk to the following . . .
1. The social impact metrics or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you are actively measuring and influencing and current data behind them. As you’re starting out, choose 3-5 things (max) that are easy to track and measure; you are going to go crazy if you add any new systems for metrics and look for investment or customers at the same time – and it’s also going to be confusing to whomever you’re talking to. These metrics can be anything from the numbers of things you’re doing (students you’re helping, hours you’re saving, etc) to easy-to-measure growth numbers (change in referrals to the principal’s office) to actual outcomes, if you’re there yet (reduction in mortality rates, community literacy level increase).
Don’t stress about how you get this data or whether or not a PhD in statistics would approve of said collection methods. Asking teachers or the front desk to self-report referrals to the principal’s office – or even tell you simply if referrals have increased or decreased since using your product – is a lot easier than getting actual referral data from the school’s software and tracking it yourself, which could take weeks, lots of privacy forms, and possibly even a visit to the school. Having useful data is much more effective in pitching social impact than having perfect data.
If investors want a study that’s statistically significant, they should be excited about helping you get to the place where you can fund one. And if customers are asking for this well . . . in rare cases does their ask make sense (mostly only if it’s going to be useful for their own reporting). You should be spending time delivering a product or service, not being a data collection and analysis agency.
2. How these non-outcome metrics or indicators directly tie to world-changing outcomes. Someone has probably already drawn this connection for you (which is great). Cite a paper, report, or study that shows that X indicator leads to Y outcome. For example, you can measure referrals to the principal’s office but you can’t measure educational outcomes unless you track these students against a control group for ten years.
That’s fine, because there’s a study out there showing that when students get in punished less they not only are in class learning but they’re more confident and excited about learning and go on in life to do all sorts of great things and avoid all sorts of bad things. Cite this paper to show that your product or service isn’t just decreasing referrals, it’s changing the world.
3. One of the United Nations’ Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals as the big outcome you’re influencing. I’m not going to go into detail about why the UN SDGs are one of the most exciting things to happen to our space because Google can help you out tons there, but it’s an exciting movement that is actively helping unite us all in our shared impact goals – and investors and funders are as energized as anybody else.
4. Brief illustration of how your increased impact directly correlates with and/or yields increased revenue (and profit) over time. For example, the more referrals to the principal’s office decrease (as an indicator of overall decrease in punishment) the more schools test scores will rise, and the more test scores rise the more budget schools get to spend on positive behavioral supports like your product. Or, perhaps more simply, the more referrals decrease the more likely a school leader is to renew your product, or recommend it to peers, or sign up for a longer-term contract or larger number of licenses. If you’re a nonprofit, this still applies, whether you create earned income or not. If you are 100% donor supported, show how your results and user excitement and satisfaction create more diverse and mass appeal to other donors (because as you know, most funders don’t like like to be the sole supporter of anything).
5. Your competitive advantage. When it comes to competition in social impact, don’t just think about others who have similar products, similar services, or perform the same activities to you. Think also about others who are best-in-class (so far) at influencing the same outcomes you influence that your buyer or customer cares most about.
Following my example, the overall outcomes your behavioral support is influencing is a more educated and perhaps a mentally healthier society. Your buyer or customer (school administration) may not care so much about the healthier society part, but they definitely care about educational outcomes. Perhaps they were going to spend money on a new curriculum product but you come along and say nah, I can give you something better, even though it’s not remotely anything curriculum-related (and I understand that there may be some budget finagling here, but this is a savvy way to position your competition in terms of impact that both your customers and your investors are going to find alluring, as you’re doing a lot of the thinking for your customer).
Finally, as you translate all the work you do and thoughts in your head into a pitch, make sure you're editing what you communicate down to the most impactful key messages; you can always give more later. Work really hard on finding clarity in these and tying them to the rest of your pitch, and you will not just have impact as some feel-good part of your business but you will sell it as the lucrative opportunity to both spend or invest money wisely and change the world that it is.