Entrepreneurial Projects: Creating and Pitching Successful Creative Projects

In my last post on the wonderful entrepreneurial projects of my students at Yale, I mentioned that we were very privileged to have a class with leading arts consultant and Yale Drama School Faculty Member Greg Kandel.

The class took place at the beginning of our semester when the students were in the process of formulating their project plans and timelines. Greg provided invaluable advice on how to strengthen the projects in order to make it more likely that they would be approved, funded and otherwise supported.

Here is a summary of Greg’s top principles for creating and pitching entrepreneurial projects:

Project Design

1. Have a Clear Project Statement

Articulate what your project consists of and be sure that you can explain your project in clear terms. Write out your project’s objective and what your project consists of. Focus on one idea at a time. If your project has two different paths, it is much more work!

2. Know Your Mission

In order to find support for your project, it is imperative that you know the mission and purpose of your project. A mission statement conveys three principle thoughts:

• Why do we exist?
• Predominantly for whom?
• What is the desired impact on the target audience?

3. Identify Your Challenges

When you are designing your project, identify your principle challenges including money, time, personnel, expertise and space. You can then zero in on the actions to take in order to overcome those challenges.

4. Create A Budget

Create a budget and know the costs involved in launching and operating your project. Donors and funders need to know what the overall cost is and what specifically you are looking for from them.

5. Design a Pilot

If your project involves an activity that you have never previously done, frame it as a pilot. Then, think about the people who might be interested in supporting the experiment. If someone likes an idea, it is unlikely that he or she will walk away from a project, especially if the cost is modest.

6. Find Collaborators

The success of a project idea is amplified if you can work with other collaborators to reduce the burden on you and to allocate responsibilities based on skillsets and strengths. Moreover, the more people who are involved in a project, the stronger your project will look to potential funders and donors.

Pitching Your Project

7. Find Support

Scour your network for people who can support your project. See who can donate what you need. Be creative in the type of support that you can garner! Create multiple options and different scenarios that would appeal to different donors and funders.

8. Know your Target

Once you have identified your targets, conduct research so that you know more about your prospects. This will help you to connect with them on a human level. And find out what knocks their socks off!

9. Share Your Passion and Be Yourself

When you meet with your prospects, show your passion and speak from your heart to convey confidence and excitement. If donors and funders do not think you care, they will not invest in your enterprise. If donors feel that you are genuine, it is more likely that they will support your activity.

10. Be Clear and Align with the Prospect’s Interests

When you pitch an idea, be very clear on what the project involves and what you are asking your donor or funder to do. Not only should you convey the mission but also the larger purpose of the project. Be sure to align your mission with the interest of your donor or funder. This includes a shared charitable purpose. Explain the value to this person that you can deliver on, whether it is a specific cause or a community interest (like a donor to a charter school who cares about education and therefore may be inclined to offer support for an outreach program).

11. Don’t Overpromise

In your zeal to garner support, be careful about overpromising on what you can deliver to your donor or funder. If you don’t deliver on what you promise, you may very well lose a friend or a business partner.

12. Never Give up!

If you love your idea, stick with it. If someone says no, politely ask the person if he has another suggestion. Get the person’s email address and invite them to your event. Follow up with them. They might be interested in your next idea.

Thank you, Greg Kandel, for your clear, honest and helpful advice!

© Astrid Baumgardner 2014