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How to “Speak Audience”: Speaking Tips for Nonprofit Professionals



It took a long time to admit to myself that I was an introverted fundraiser masquerading as an extroverted one. I enjoyed meeting with donors and working with volunteers, but I also desperately needed alone time to recharge my batteries. I thought I was the only introverted fundraiser in the world, and it wasn’t until I arrived at The Collins Group that I realized I wasn’t alone. At our staff retreat in August, I discovered over half of the TCG staff define themselves as introverts or “mixed breed” (introvert/extrovert).

The common assumption is that fundraising is a field full of naturally gregarious types who thrive on social interaction 24/7. While there are many fundraisers in this category, the truth is there are many of us who deeply enjoy our interactions with colleagues, donors, board members, and volunteers, but also draw our energy from being alone to reflect.

For introverts (and sometimes extroverts, too), the thought of speaking to a large audience can be distressing. However, we are in a profession where we are regularly called upon to speak to large groups of donors, sponsors, community groups, or the media. While we may appear comfortable, it requires extra effort for introverted fundraisers to step into that space where we draw energy from the external environment (audience) instead of from within ourselves.

I’m currently enrolled in a Persuasive Communications class with Michael Shadow as part of the Masters of Nonprofit Leadership program at Seattle University.  He has been a speech consultant to United States presidents, corporate CEOs, and nonprofit sector leaders.  As someone who aspires to excel in an extroverted world despite my natural introverted tendencies, I hang on to his every word.

The bottom line is this: If we can harness the power of persuasive speech, where we fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum is irrelevant. You can be confident the audience won’t discover your secret introverted personality because the speech will be well-delivered.

Here are some nuggets I’ve gleaned during class on how to “speak audience,” courtesy of Michael Shadow.

  1. Don’t begin a speech with thanks or praise. Acquire and focus the attention through a story, example, quotation or lyrics.
  2. Share universal stories. People need to perceive themselves within the stories you share during your speech in order to stay interested.
  3. Don’t get lost in your notes. Leave the bottom third of each page blank so you can quickly glance down to prompt your next point instead of reading to the bottom of the page – this pulls your head down and distracts both you and the audience.
  4. This is a speech, not an essay. Include only one idea per line and then leave a space and move to the next thought. It’s easier to remember your thoughts if you organize them in this way.
  5. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Begin with your ultimate goal for the speech and work backwards. Think about who is in the audience, how they see themselves, and what their image is of you. The speech isn’t about you; it’s about meeting the needs of the audience.

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About the Author

Julie Bianchi

Julie Bianchi


Julie has serious talent for and dedication to nonprofit development work. She’s always on the lookout for what will best serve her clients and the sector.


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