3 Ways to Nail Your Elevator Pitch

2 business people shaking hands in front of elevator

Imagine your good luck: you’re at a holiday party, and find yourself one-on-one with a potential major donor you’ve never had the chance to meet before. Can you quickly and compellingly impress them with what your organization stands for? Storytelling is easy when you’re engaging people who already know what your organization stands for, but getting the essence of your story across in less than a minute can be challenging.

Knowing how and what to communicate to quickly spark interest in your cause is crucial. It can help you unlock funding, broaden your audience of supporters, and even attract the right talent to your organization.

1.    Lead with purpose

Putting your mission front and center in your story invites others into your cause. When you lead with purpose you inspire a conversation, whether it’s engaging a potential donor or sharing a social media update with supporters. Your mission is powerful because it reinforces why your organization is committed to making an impact.

Remember – if you or anyone you’re working with can’t easily remember the mission, it’s not fit for purpose. Here’s a good example from UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB). We worked with the MAB to clarify their mission, which was previously technical and complex:

  • Before: “The MAB Program develops the basis within the natural and social sciences for the rational and sustainable use and conservation of the resources of the biosphere and for the improvement of the overall relationship between people and their environment.”
  • After: “MAB inspires a positive future by connecting people and nature today.”

2.    Bring clarity to what you do

Clearly explaining what your organization offers backs up your mission. Your proposition should briefly describe the core set of services your organization provides, in alignment with your mission. If you find you’re offering the kitchen sink, that often signals a deeper problem with finding focus that needs to be addressed.

A good example is Nexus, a UK-based organization that exists to open doors for development. We worked with Nexus to help articulate this mission, and to bring clarity to what Nexus does. Nexus now has an easy way of explaining what the organization offers to live up to the mission:

“We connect amazing development opportunities to sources of finance and expertise that enable organizations around the world to scale up their impact.”

3.    Show the impact

Who is the hero of your story? Hint – it’s not you. For many third-sector organizations, showing impact in the right way can be challenging. Many resort to simply stating the facts. For others, the story is all about them (and usually how they started). Showing the impact of your work on real people creates empathy.

Your heroes are your donors, partners, beneficiaries, and local communities. The final key to sparking interest is to champion these heroes who are making an impact every day. The best elevator pitches combine a meaningful number with a real-life quote from one of your heroes to bring this to life.

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NATALYA SVERJENSKY is a San Francisco based Partner at Within People, a global partnership that helps people find purpose and grow. It works with organizations across sectors to embed purpose in brand and culture. Recent Within People clients in the third sector include UNESCO, Open Africa and Raleigh International.

Natalya will present "Mastering Your Elevator Speech" on January 28, 2016, at Foundation Center San Francisco. If you'll be in the San Francisco area and would like to attend, register to save your spot.