Oral Dockets

Dear Kim,

Our organization has been asked to present our request for funding in person to a panel of decision makers, along with a number of other organizations. They call it an “Oral Docket.” Have you ever heard of such a thing? We are not very good public speakers and I feel we will be at a disadvantage because of that. It seems really unfair but we have to do it. Do you have any tips for us?

~Frothing with Fear

Dear Frothing,

Actually I am a big fan of oral dockets, and I would reassure that the funding does not just go to the best presenters, but often goes to the presenters of the best projects. Oral dockets are used by some community foundations, local United Ways and service clubs as a way for decision makers to meet the people involved in the organization and to ask questions directly. While it may seem unfair, it is no more unfair than relying on a written proposal which favors people who are good writers. Good fundraisers need to learn presentation skills, so think of this as a crash course in something you need to know. Here are a few tips:

  • Pick the two or three points you most want the funders to remember and build your presentation around those.
  • If you use PPT or handouts, don’t read from them, but look at the audience and address them directly.
  • Give examples and tell stories. Your own story is always interesting—how did you get into this work? Why is it important to you?
  • Use statistics sparingly and compare them to something. For example: Compare these statements of the same statistics:

4% of CEOS of American corporations are women.


4% of CEOs are women—in fact more men named John are CEOS than the total number of women.

115 people were killed by police in the United States in March.


115 people were killed by police in the United States in March, which is more than have been killed by police in Great Britain since 1900.

  • Say how much you want at the beginning of your talk and again at the end.

START: “We are seeking $25,000 to deliver healthy fresh vegetables and fruit to the food deserts in our communities. Before we get into that, let me tell you what a food desert is and where they can be found here.”

END: “And so that is why we are seeking $25,000 to put an end to food deserts, and thus to insure that the residents in our poorest neighborhoods are not deprived of basic nutrition.”

Finally, keep in mind that the people listening to you are on your side. No one wants you to do badly. Further, you know your issues and you care a great deal about the work you do—this is your chance to share your passion and your commitment. The secret of a good presentation is preparation and practice, practice, practice.

Focus on your mission and not your fear and you will be fine.

Best wishes to you.

~Kim Klein