Your elevator speech doesn’t go to the top floor

You know the mythical elevator speech? It’s that 30-second rundown of what you are your company does that you would give if you talked to strangers on elevators.

Tom Ahern, writing at Asking Matters (Make an Elevator Speech that Works), describes an exercise he does with nonprofit people where they write their own elevator speeches. The result is discouraging:

Ninety-nine times out of 100, the person delivering her elevator speech never mentions the donor. The donor plays no role at all in the elevator speech.

So true. So painfully true. And I wish it were only true of elevator speeches. Truth is, donors are absent from almost all things nonprofits say about themselves. From mission statements to annual reports, donors are rarely glimpsed. Even a lot of fundraising manages to avoid mentioning donors.

It’s all about what they do, how they do it, and how effective they are at it. Usually in their own internal and impenetrable jargon.

There’s no problem with that if you don’t need donors to fund your work (the Gates Foundation comes to mind). But if you need donors, you really ought to proclaim it. Why should anyone care how cool you are — unless they are part of the coolness?

A homeless shelter might say it like this: We make it possible for generous people in our community to help the homeless get off the streets — permanently.

If you think properly about donor and their importance, you’ll naturally start revising your elevator speech and everything else.


Comments

4 responses to “Your elevator speech doesn’t go to the top floor”

  1. Love it, Jeff. This approach hands the prospect their role. Definitely makes the most of few words.

  2. Love it, Jeff. This approach hands the prospect their role. Definitely makes the most of few words.

  3. Ooh, this is good. really good. I am going to use this for one of my nonprofit clients, Austin Civic Orchestra.
    The hard part of elevator speeches and getting nonprofit staff to make them is that people at nonprofits OFTEN don’t major in marketing, and OFTEN have a much more circuitous way of talking than the average marketer. It’s hard to get a multi-service nonprofit to sum up what they do in one sentence, let alone too. No wonder they retreat to jargon, because each word in the elevator speech must be packed with meaning. I do think fundraising effectively has to be about building relationships more than the elevator speech, and that’s going to take a lot more words.
    Peace,
    Mazarine
    http://wildwomanfundraising.com

  4. Ooh, this is good. really good. I am going to use this for one of my nonprofit clients, Austin Civic Orchestra.
    The hard part of elevator speeches and getting nonprofit staff to make them is that people at nonprofits OFTEN don’t major in marketing, and OFTEN have a much more circuitous way of talking than the average marketer. It’s hard to get a multi-service nonprofit to sum up what they do in one sentence, let alone too. No wonder they retreat to jargon, because each word in the elevator speech must be packed with meaning. I do think fundraising effectively has to be about building relationships more than the elevator speech, and that’s going to take a lot more words.
    Peace,
    Mazarine
    http://wildwomanfundraising.com

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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