Feeling comfortable in your work environment is an important part of your company culture. Many nonprofit organizations have lax dress codes, a custom many employees appreciate because they feel they can be themselves in the office. This changes, however, when it comes to investor presentations.
Lost on what to wear when making your pitch to investors? Fear not! We’ve got tips for you on how to style yourself before the big ask.
Remember That Investors ≠ Donors
There are some key differences between investors and donors, and learning how to approach both is important. Donors are typically those that provide lower-level, sporadic donations. That is, they aren’t necessarily connected to your nonprofit permanently. Investors, on the other hand, are concerned with the long-term success of your organization. They look for return on their investment, which usually comes in the form of a large sum of money—a financial commitment that ties them to your organization for years to come.
Investors deserve extra effort, in terms of style. You don’t want to roll up to a presentation looking shabby—you want your presentation to pop. Below we’ve got a guide to the differences between business casual, smart casual and business professional and when is the right time to wear each.
This is what most people typically wear to the office. For women, this means pants that aren’t jeans, khakis or an appropriate skirt with a fashionable top and flats or kitten heels. For men, it means a nice pair of khakis with a polo or other collared shirt and loafers or dress shoes.
You can wear business casual to an investor presentation if you’ve already cultivated a relationship with the investors and feel confident that they’re on board with your cause. However, we recommend dressing up a little more for your presentation, since it is an important chance for your nonprofit to show its best side—especially for the first go-around.
Smart casual, sometimes called “snappy casual” or “dressy casual,” is a step up from business casual, without being fully business formal. This is what you’d usually wear to an event or nonprofit business meeting. It’ll include a mix of business professional clothes with everyday pieces like clean denim. For men, it could mean adding a sport coat, a tie or a vest. Women could add a pair of heels, a collared shirt or a blazer.
Smart casual is a great option for your investor presentation if your investors are younger or more progressive. You can be somewhat relaxed with them while retaining those professional elements too.
Business professional is the traditional standard for business presentations. It entails full-on business suits for both men and women. Men can add a tie and women can opt for a skirt suit. For this dress code, you’ll want to stick to classic muted colors like black, navy blue, gray and brown.
You’ll want to go with business professional when you really want to impress your investors with your presentation. It’s best to do this if you’re unfamiliar with the investors, if they’re traditional and more established or when you’re making a really big ask—one that could make a significant impact on your nonprofit organization.
Use Your Best Judgement
Of course, you can always personalize each of the dress codes and add pieces that reflect who you are and that truly embody your mission. Try taking a peek at Vu Le’s guide for nonprofit success for an in-depth look at colors and what certain articles of clothing convey. Use your best judgement when it comes to style—after all, you know your organization and its investors better than anyone else.