The idea of “pitching” is not new. We have been trained to do “elevator pitches” that are supposed to be pithy yet moving, sincere yet polished, inspiring yet grounded, all in 20 seconds. We pitch to donors, funders, politicians, partner orgs, volunteers. Grants, meanwhile, are basically just long pitches. We do a lot of pitching.

However, just because something CAN be done well doesn’t mean it SHOULD be done at all. After attending many of these pitch events, talking to folks who have gone through them, and weighing the pros and cons, I think they are more harmful than helpful to our sector and we should phase them out completely. Here are several reasons why:

  • They entrench existing power dynamics between funders/donors and nonprofits: Why is it always nonprofits that are pitching to funders and donors? Why is it never the other way around? Simple: Because one party has money, and in our society that means they by default get to call the shots. But is this what we want to reinforce?
  • They’re inequitable, rewarding the organizations that can play the game best: Grant applications are usually inequitable because the organizations that can write the “best” proposals usually win, and they tend to be mainstream, white-led orgs.
  • They perpetuate competitiveness among different interrelated missions: Sure, when done thoughtfully, they can be friendly competitions. But they are competitions nonetheless. There is already so much jostling in our sector for resources: grants, donations, media coverage, even talent.
  •  They turn the work of equity and justice into spectacles: There are already enough ingrained expectations in our sector that we manipulate our messaging to make our work emotionally resonant and easily digestible to people with money.
  • They reinforce ignorance among the public: Oftentimes, the people “judging” the competitions as well as those in attendance may have never worked at nonprofits addressing these causes or had any first-hand experience in these issues at all.
  • They are time-consuming and distracting: These competitions require significant investment in time and energy.
  •  They are insulting and patronizing:  Do not create ridiculous and inequitable processes and think you’re doing nonprofits a favor by helping them develop skills in navigating the ridiculousness and inequity.

Read the full article about pitch-based funding by Vu Le at Nonprofit AF.