Fundraising Tip: Ditch the Pitch Habit #6 – Don’t Rush the Story

[Today’s article is the seventh and final article in the exclusive eJewish Philanthropy series designed to acquaint readers with the key concepts in Steve Yastrow’s new book, “Ditch the Pitch.” The message is clear: tear up your fundraising pitch, and raise more money with fresh, spontaneous persuasive conversations. To read the previous articles in the series, click here.]

by Steve Yastrow

You “know your stuff.” You understand your organization well, and you have had many conversations with donors in which you have seen a spark of interest ignite. It is inevitable that as you speak with donors, you will instantly come up with reasons why your organization perfectly fits their needs and interests.

Here’s the challenge: You will understand these reasons before your donors are ready to hear them. Unlike you, your donors do not spend their days thinking about how your organization makes the world a better place, and how you can meet the charitable needs of donors.

This leads us to our final habit, Ditch the Pitch Habit #6: Don’t Rush the Story. Let’s explore a few practices that will help you build a story with your donor at a pace the donor can accept.

Practice: Don’t load the slingshot

Just as David felled the giant Goliath with his slingshot, it’s easy to knock your donor over if you fire surprise ideas at him too quickly. Resist the temptation to tell your donor your ideas as soon as you have them. As described above, you will always come up with ideas faster than your donor is ready to hear them. Bring those ideas into the conversation at a pace your donor can accept.

Practice: Leave things in your pocket

Your goal in a donor conversation is not to tell your donor everything about your organization. In fact, if you try to tell him everything, you will overwhelm him and he will end up understand very little about your organization. Your goal in a donor conversation is to advance your relationship, earning the right either to ask for a donation or to ask for the next meeting.

For this reason, it is important to “leave things in your pocket.” Be discerning about what information you bring into an individual donor conversation, and what you leave out, basing these decisions on the particular characteristics and interests of the donor you are speaking with. Your new program may be the most exciting, most powerful, most innovative thing your organization has ever created, but if it’s not interesting to this donor, it’s best not to force it into the conversation.

Practice: Create callbacks

Watch any good comedy, whether it is improvised or scripted, and you will see many recurring references throughout the show. For example, a Seinfeld episode may start with George saying something embarrassing, and this situation will return a few more times during the show, creating bigger laughs each time it comes back. These recurring references are called “callbacks,” and they serve to tie a story together and make the audience feel like they are part of the story.

Comedians use callbacks to get laughs, but you can use them to help your donor see continuity to the conversation you are having with him, in addition to demonstrating that you are listening and understanding his needs and interests. As an example, imagine you are raising money for an organization that helps disadvantaged teens, and your donor tells you about some moving experiences he had helping young people as a Big Brother when he was in college. If you reference his comments and experiences later in conversations with him, it will help him see a stronger connection between his emotional experiences and what you offer.


In the seven articles in this series, we have reviewed concrete tools that you can use to ditch the pitch and make your efforts at persuasion and fundraising more effective. When you tear up your fundraising scripts and, instead, create fresh, spontaneous conversations that matter to your donors, you will create stronger relationships with donors and raise more money from them.

And, most importantly, you will be helping your organization become stronger, which will enable it to do more of the important work it does to make the world a better place.

Go ahead … Ditch the Pitch!

For more information about Steve Yastrow and Ditch the Pitch, please visit, or find “Ditch the Pitch” on