It’s baseball season, and also a great season to start SART and CCRT formation; in short, a great season for pitching. Pitching your team to prospective partners can be the pivotal point between planning your team and making it a reality. When I started working on SART development, a coworker suggested I send pitch emails to community partners. I kind of nodded and pretended I knew what that meant, and later started googling pitch email templates. If you’re looking to introduce your team or team concept, check out the guidance below. Keep in mind that teamwork is all about relationships. The skills you use in your work with survivors is also what will set you up for success in your teams: establishing trust, building rapport, being authentic and transparent, among many other things. Think of a pitch as one tool in your toolbox and relationship-building as central.
The first step in forming your pitch is planning who you are pitching to. Mapping out prospective team members is a vital first step.
We want to consider things like:
- Who makes up your community?
- A la my former colleague Olivia Montgomery, consider bringing your census data and looking at the population of your community. Compare your census data with your sexual assault response data. What people are missing from the table?
- What constitutes a sexual assault response?
- When we think of sexual assault response, we often think of hospitals or police stations, when people are providing sexual assault responses all throughout our communities. Faith leaders, peer recovery coaches, hairdressers, barbers, prison chaplains, EMS, health clinics, and loved ones may among a few of the people who are provided response to sexual violence in your communities.
- Who are survivors disclosing to and how are they seeking support in your community?
- Who is being most impacted by sexual violence in your community?
- What added infrastructure could help eradicate sexual violence in my community?
- Who are the bridge-builders and the change-makers in your community?
Once you’ve answered these questions, consider next steps. Some teams like to start small and recruit more members once processes are developed; other teams like to start big and hear all the perspectives in the community. No matter how you choose to start, you can always add more members. The team members you start with may also be able to point you in the direction of more team members.
Your careful plans sets you up perfectly for the pitch. To continue the baseball metaphor, we know that there are many different types of pitches and often there are particular pitches that are suited most to each individual, so it’s important to consider some common elements of pitches and tailor your pitch to your own personal style as well as what may be best suited for the person or people you are pitching to. This includes the form of communication (email, videoconference, in-person meeting, mail, community recruitment) and the style of pitch. As SART/CCRT leaders, authenticity, passion, and expertise are often our natural areas of strength and what we can embrace to form successful pitches. Starting from those natural strengths, we can then move into the specifics of a pitch.
Often a pitch includes some critical pieces: the who, what, where, when, and why.
If the person you are pitching to doesn’t know you or your organization, start with a brief introduction. Talk about who you are and what you do. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal; teamwork is all about relationship and connecting on a personal level can deepen partnerships and center our humanity in the work. Think about who you are connecting with as well: what perspectives, values, passions, similarities, differences, and connections might they have that you can speak to?
Let your pitch recipient know what it is that you’re pitching. In clear and concise terms, explain the goals and objectives of your team.
Location can be so important, especially for our SARTs and CCRTs. You don’t have to have a meeting location finalized at the time of pitch, but it is important to identify the region. Consider also what locations are most accessible and equitable to prospective team members.
Timing is also important. Time can be something that is complicated in our work, but having a timeline in mind can help make your pitch more concrete. Additionally, prospective members may also want to know the time commitment.
In my opinion, the “why” is the most important part of the pitch. It’s what motivates and inspires. As such, it’s important to carefully craft your “why.” It’s often helpful to tailor they “why” to your audience. A why to a substance use disorder treatment provider may include the intersections between trauma and substance use disorder and a why to a hospital might include the health impacts of sexual violence across the lifetime. Focus on shared values and goals.
Additionally, a combination of concrete facts and storytelling can help recipients empathize with the cause. I think back to my first SART pitch meeting where I listed all the reasons why a SART could help the county which didn’t allow the recipient to really connect to my “why.” Instead, telling a success story from a previous SART or a story about why a coordinated community response team would be helpful in our county could have been more effective.
Also consider follow through and follow up. End your pitch with a clear call to action and be sure to check back in often! One of my favorite community partners sent thoughtful handwritten notes in the mail and would catch up with me before and after meetings. Although her team wasn’t initially something I was interested in, I became very active in the team because of the intentional relationship-building and collaboration she created.
Not everyone may respond to your pitch, and that’s okay. No one has a 100% batting average and as much as I talk about baseball in this blog post, I would not be interested or helpful on a baseball team. However, there are other teams and other avenues that may be better fit for me. Likewise, we may struggle with the ever-present issue of buy-in. When someone doesn’t buy into your pitch, it can feel like a failure. However, we can also reframe it as that person might have a better fit with other teams or opportunities right now, and that’s okay. It’s important to acknowledge, though, that if the person or organization is from a historically oppressed background, it could be a really great opportunity to apply ourselves to growth and learning to understand why they may not want to engage with us and what we can change.
If you’ve had a really successful pitch, be sure to comment with your experience!