Key Ingredients for a Social Venture Pitch that will Resonate with Funders

How to develop a pitch that will draw listeners to the edge of their seats and leave them excited about your social business.

July 27, 2018

There is no 'one-size-fits-all' formula for a social venture pitch.

However, there are key topics that most impact investors or pitch competition judges will be listening for when the spotlight turns to you.

Use this list as a starting point to outline your pitch and slide deck. Once you have all of this essential information drafted, you can adjust the flow and specifics to best suit your initiative.

TITLE

In the introductory slide, include the names of the team members, the name of your social venture (including your logo if you have one), your contact information, the date, and a one-line snapshot of who you serve and how.

PROBLEM

Next, you want to describe why your social venture is needed and give the listener concise information to easily understand the issue. Refrain from jumping into describing the solution until you have given the listener sufficient context about the problem and need that your solution addresses.

There are a few common strategies to introduce the problem. You can:

  • Open with an illustrative story of an individual that faced this problem

  • Explain how you or the team first became aware of the issue

  • Share a surprising or compelling statistic that meaningfully demonstrates the issue

The issue you are addressing is likely too big to cover in great detail so focus on the parts of the problem that connect to the specific solution you’ve developed and the associated opportunity. To give the listener an idea of the full scope and scale of the issue, you can also quantify it for your region and globally by sharing the number of people impacted.

SOLUTION

Now that the audience understands the problem, you can start to connect the dots between the issue and the core offering that you provide.

Describe the customer segments that you serve and explain how your solution helps them increase ‘gains’, reduce ‘pains’, or accomplish ‘jobs’. Of course, you don’t need to list these out in detail, but be sure to hit on the primary benefits. (See Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Canvas if you need help articulating these elements.)

In addition to articulating why your offer is compelling to potential users or customers, explain simply and clearly how the solution works. Describe if it is a product, service, platform, marketplace, or a combination.

 

YOUR UNIQUE TAKE

Chances are that your solution leverages existing ideas or technology. Now is your chance to describe how it is innovative as compared to what else is readily available. The innovation could be around the product itself, the business model (i.e. how you create, capture or deliver value), or both.

Highlight your competitive advantage; explain how this solution is newer, better, or otherwise different from alternatives available to your customers.

You can explain alternatives that are in direct competition, such as other products or services that have similar features, or in indirect competition, meaning different solutions that users are currently applying to address the same pain point.

In a nutshell, your pitch needs to explain why your organization is well-positioned to solve this problem in an effective way. Depending on your venture, describing your unique take might be effectively covered in other areas of the pitch, but be sure it’s abundantly clear how your solution stands apart.

BUSINESS MODEL

Next, you need to explain the business model that will help you execute your vision in a sustainable way.

Describe how the venture will create, capture, and deliver value.

Your revenue engine will power your social venture and allow you to get your solution into more of the hands of those who can benefit. Be sure to outline the primary costs of providing goods and services along with the revenue streams and pricing that make up your sustainable model. (Revenue could serve as a complement to philanthropic funding, but if you’re reading this, chances are your pitch includes at least one earned income stream.)

Here you can also explain your go-to-market strategy, or how you plan to get your solution into the hands of your customers. The details will depend on your social venture but could include key resources, distribution channels, or relevant partnerships.

Even if your listener knew nothing about your business or the cause when you started presenting, by now they should have a clear picture of who you serve, what you do for them (including why they care about it), and how you do it.

MARKET VALIDATION

Now that you listener has the big picture, it's time to elaborate on what you have accomplished so far. Include highlights or snapshots of how your solution has already made progress to establish your track record and credibility.

There are a variety of ways to demonstrate proof of traction or market validation, including:

  • Crowdfunding campaign results

  • Number of customers served (with year-over-year or month-over-month growth)

  • Revenue earned (with year-over-year or month-over-month growth)

  • Pilot program results (showing your solution in action)

  • Market research you’ve gathered and how it’s informing your next steps

You may want to also share social proof such as testimonials, endorsements, awards, or media coverage to backup your figures.

 

UNIT ECONOMICS

You should always show that you know your numbers and will be a smart steward of funds, whether you are pitching to for-profit investors or philanthropic donors.

To do this, describe the ‘unit economics’ of your venture. In other words, outline the smallest ‘unit’ of the business that drives profitability. This includes the costs, revenues, and margins (the difference between the two) per unit of business.

When you talk about the unit economics, explain what factors drive those numbers and how they will shift over time (ie. in 5 years vs. 10 years).

Here you can also show at what point the business will reach financial breakeven, or the point when unit revenues cover all fixed and variable costs and the business is expected to become profitable.

With these numbers in hand, you can project when the business will be able to start serving debt and/or returning funds to investors. If pitching to investors, let them know what type of financial returns they can expect (if any) and in what projected timeframe.

SCALE-UP PLAN

The next step is to outline how you plan to grow the results you have so far over the next one, three, and five years.

Include your plans for expansion and how you plan to get the word out to new customers.

If there are relevant market trends that might impact your scaling strategy, share them here.

FINANCIALS

Your financial projections are especially important if pitching to investors. However, they will be less critical in most pitch competitions.

Share a simple financial summary of the upcoming years, with projected revenue, costs, profit, and margins. Show the role that existing or projected funding plays in the financial plan, including its impact on the expected point of breakeven.

Anyone can throw out financial projections, but what’s important is the ability to demonstrate that you have a sound understanding of the numbers that impact your particular business. Take the time to explain the one or two key assumptions that will most significantly influence the projected figures. These could include metrics like the assumed growth rate of new customers each month, or the assumed percentage of users that will become paying customers.

If numbers aren’t your strong suit, don’t hesitate to ask for help from an accountant or financial advisor to help you with this section!

TEAM

The goal of highlighting team members in your pitch is to show that you have the knowledge and experience required to execute the vision and implement your plan. In your slides include the names, photos, and roles of the founder(s) and any other key team members. If you have advisors or mentors, include them here as well.

 

MILESTONES

If not already covered in previous sections, it can be helpful to map out the major milestones you are working towards along with expected timeframes for achieving them. You want to include a brief look at the ultimate vision but spend more time outlining the realistic and achievable milestones in the next 5-10 years. You can use visuals to map out next steps in terms of operations and/or financials.

If speaking to potential funders, explain how the funding you are asking for will help you hit these milestones.

RISKS AND MITIGATIONS

Before concluding, it can be beneficial to address any large potential challenges your organization might face going forward and how you plan to mitigate them.

It’s not negative to show you are thinking about what could go wrong; it shows you are a rational leader who is thinking ahead and keeping your eye out for potential obstacles and have a plan to move through them.

SUMMARIZE THE ASK

Finally, it's time to conclude the presentation. Reiterate what you are looking for from the listener, how receiving it will help move your business forward, and what’s in it for them.

Don't forget to thank them for their time, let them know how to move forward with next steps, and provide your contact information one last time.

 

From this list, it may look like a lot of information to cover in a short amount of time. However, once you get started you will find your social venture will likely require more elaboration about certain areas, while other sections can be communicated in a sentence or two. You’ll also need to tailor your pitch to your specific audience and their areas of focus.

A great way to get started is to sit down with your team and brainstorm the full list of ideas you might want to share in your pitch. Then star the ones that are absolutely critical and table the more generic information (some of which can be included in appendices if sharing your pitch deck to investors by email).

With the essential pitch structure in place, try out a few different story arcs to pull the information together in a compelling and engaging way. Your pitch will require many iterations before you're completely happy with it, so don’t be afraid to run it by others for feedback and encourage them to be very candid!

Good luck with your pitches!

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