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June 24, 2015

Refresh Your Board’s Elevator Pitch

Purpose-of-an-Elevator-PitchWe’ve been busy, busy with board trainings this summer. It makes sense. This is often the slowest time of year for fundraising and smart fundraisers know that they’d better get the building blocks in place for the fall season before it actually hits!

This is a great time revisit and refresh your board’s skills as ambassadors and fundraisers.

If you want to do a full-blown fundraising training, check out this earlier blog for some tips. But, even if you don’t have time to go whole-hog, think about taking the time at your next board meeting to help board members develop their spiel.

Of all the things board members ask for when it comes to training, is “what on earth do I say about my organization?”

It’s really as simple as this: board members need an elevator pitch.

Now, I live in a town with a 50-foot height restriction on buildings, so the elevator pitch analogy doesn’t make much sense. That aside, everyone needs to be able to share their enthusiasm and the basics about their organization in a few short sentences. Not to be confused with an “ask,” the elevator pitch is an introduction to the organization.  The goal is simply to pique the listener’s interest to the point that they’d like to learn more.

Here are some thoughts on getting your board members ready to share their passion with the world:

Toss out the script.

The more personalized the message, the more genuine and compelling it will be. Work with your board to have them develop their own stories.

Employ the three-bullet point approach.

Have each board member come up with three bullet points about the organization, rather than a lengthy tome. This process essentially forces them to distill their story into focused, meaningful themes.   This has always been my approach and, generally speaking, I’ll remember at least two of the three points on the fly!

Lead with the why.

In the nonprofit sector, we tend to want to share everything about what our organizations do. When developing an elevator pitch, the why of our work is so much more important. For example, start with “nearly a third of runaway kids in our community end up trading sex for basic needs like food or shelter” before saying “we provide overnight shelter for runaway youth.”   It’s most powerful to appeal first to the listener’s heart and then appeal to their logic.

Have a call to action.

Even though an elevator pitch is not a solicitation, it’s good to be armed with a next step.  If the listener seems interested in the organization’s work, be ready with: “Hey, if you want to learn more, come to our event next week.”  or “I’d love to give you a personal tour; can I call and arrange one?”

Practice, practice, practice.

Have your board members share their stories with each other and refine them together.

Here’s a nice worksheet with some prompts that you can use to help your board develop their own spiel. And here’s suggested agenda for a short session at your next meeting:

  1. Start with a group discussion about the why of your work to get everyone’s creative juices flowing.
  2. Allow each board member to develop their three bullet points.
  3. Then have them work in pairs to share and refine their points.
  4. Finish with a full-group discussion to exchange the best ideas that emerged and talk about how and when board members can get out there and use their brand new stories!

Don’t forget to circle back to this topic once in a while to keep your board’s elevator pitch on the up and up! 

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