The Art of Fundraising - as a 140 second Icarus Presentation

a picture of Seth Godin & Marc at The Icarus Presentation at MITWednesday, I had the opportunity to join over 375 people to hear Seth Godin speak at MIT. He was sharing ideas from his new books The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? and V Is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone.

After he spoke, he invited six of us to give an "Icarus Presentation." This was a 140 second talk on our art.

So naturally, I chose the art of fundraising!

My Icarus Presentation on Fundraising

Image of Marc A. Pitman giving his Icarus Presentation on the Art of Fundraising140 seconds goes quickly! But, to the best of my knowledge, this is a pretty faithful transcript of what I said:

How many of you have ever asked someone to give money to a nonprofit? [More than half raised their hands]

How many of you enjoyed it? [Some laughter; some groans.]

In the next few seconds, I want to help you reframe that. Please take out a piece of paper and write down the name of a nonprofit that you wish had more resources to fund its mission. [Paused]

When I started fundraising in the mid 1990s, I was told I was a professional beggar. Or a "chugger"--a charity mugger, someone who bonked people on the head and tried to grab their wallet.

But I've come to see fundraising as more than that. You see, most people are stuck working 40, 60, 80, or 120 hours a week doing things they don't love. Doing things totally unrelated to their values. As fundraisers, we get to re-introduce them to what makes them human. We are like archaeologists. We get to dig down and uncover a person's core values. We help them brush off the dirt and sweep away the cobwebs.

It's wonderful to see people reconnect with their core values! But we do even more. We get to connect them with something wired even deeper into us as human beings. We get to reconnect them with generosity. We show them areas where their core values line up with our nonprofit's values. And we ask them to invest in them.

When donors realize they can invest in their core values through our nonprofit, their eyes light up! All of a sudden their 40, 60, or 80 hours of work take on a whole new meaning.

After you've experienced this a few times it becomes addicting! That's when we realize we really can ask without fear!

Now look back at your piece of paper. Write down the name of a person you think can give money to your nonprofit. Your charge, your invitation, is between now and Friday to connect with them to start the process.

What do you think?

Is this what fundraising is to you? If you've asked people for money for a nonprofit, how would you describe the art?

UPDATE: Here's the video

I was honored to get this video from C.C. Chapman. My attempted transcription is was close!

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. 140sec TED talk is awesome, Marc - but not as awesome as the pic of you and Seth! Go get 'em!!!!!

  2. What a fabulous opportunity Marc, and congrats on grasping it so ably. A fine exposition on the art and personal joy of fundraising and giving. And that photo of Seth with your bow tie is priceless!

  3. You made the most of your 140 seconds!! Congrats to you:)

  4. You were fabulous, Marc (as you know, I was there to witness your 140 second TED talk)! Well done, and memorable!


  1. [...] Fundraising coach Marc Pitman is one of the people who best expresses this fundraising principle: [...]

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