The Big Mistake That’s Hurting Your Nonprofit (and How to Fix It)

nonprofit elevator pitchThere’s a simple question you get asked all the time. It comes up nearly every time you meet somebody new. At cocktail parties. Restaurants. Fundraisers. Everywhere.

If you handle it the right way, it can be enormously valuable to you and your nonprofit. More volunteers. More donations. More engagement, awareness, and interest. You know… all those things you desire and worry about and pay money for. Money that could be going to your programs instead.

But you’re blowing it.

And you’re not alone. If what I see at the many board and staff retreats I run is true, it turns out most nonprofit people are messing this up.

So what exactly am I talking about? And if this is so valuable, how can I fix it?

Don’t worry. It’s easy to fix. Read on to find out how.

WHAT DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION DO?

I’m at a fundraising dinner and begin chatting with the woman to my right. “So what do you do?” Turns out she runs a nonprofit. The mission isn’t obvious from the title of the organization. “Tell me what your organization is about.”

15 minutes later. Yes, 15 minutes later. And I still had no answer to my question.

Be forewarned. I can be a pretty blunt dinner companion. I gently stopped her.

“Would you mind answering the question again? And this time, would you pretend that I am ten years old?” (Since there’s a ten year old trapped inside me, this question comes naturally.)

Every single solitary time a board member or staff member is asked the question, “Tell me a little bit about your organization,” there is a big fat opportunity. So why do I rarely get a simple, direct answer?

“So tell me a little about your organization.”

A simple enough question. You’d think this would be a lay up for any executive director or board member.

I wish.

WHAT YOU’RE DOING WRONG

Here are a few ways you’re messing up your nonprofit elevator pitch.

1. Assume

I teach a nonprofit communications class at the University of Pennsylvania and I have my students read a book called Made to Stick  (highly recommend it – quick read). In it the authors talk about what they call the “curse of knowledge” — a presumption that your listener is inside your head, your sector, your organization.

2. Provide a List

An example would be nice, but really what I want is one or two sentences I can hold onto so that when I get home and tell my wife that I was at an event and met this really interesting woman who worked at the ABC Organization, I can tell her something that makes her say, “Wow. That sounds like a great organization.”

Lists don’t get that kind of reaction. Just sayin.

3. Lead With Your Vision

Let’s assume your organization has a vision (sometimes not a great assumption, I am sad to say.) If you start way too broadly, you can either emotionally paralyze your dinner companion or cause a shut down. “Our organization is working to end slavery.”

I’m not sure what question to ask as a follow up. And by the way, as a relatively intelligent individual (with a tendency for snappy retorts), I’m keeping myself from saying “Good luck with that.”

So you can’t get too specific and you can’t go too broad. And you have to assume I’m ten.

So what DO you do?

THE RECIPE FOR A STRONG ELEVATOR SPIEL

1. Change the Question

What an ‘aha moment’ during my media training before a national television interview. “You do not have to answer the question you are asked,” I was told. “Just figure out a way to answer the question you think SHOULD be asked.”OK, so I might ask you: “What does your organization do?” This question leads to a list. Or it leads to the paralyzing vision. So pretend that what I actually say is, “Tell me about your organization.” This gives you the opportunity to tell me what you want to tell me. And besides, that is the question I really want to know the answer to.

2. Take Your Mission and Bring it To Life

If you start your answer with, “Our mission is…,” while I may not actually get up and head to the bar, in my head I’m thinkin’ cosmo.Instead, how about a sentence that starts with “We work to ….” Take my friends (and clients) at The Somaly Mam Foundation. If you are lucky enough to meet one of their talented staff members at an event, you might hear them say:“We are working to end human sex trafficking in Cambodia. We help victims to escape, we help these young girls rebuild their lives and achieve economic independence. And we engage with the government and corporations to fix the root cause. Because we know if we can do that in Cambodia, we’ll be on the road to ending sex slavery for good.”

3. Ask Your Own Question

Once you’ve brought your mission to life, let me take it in for a second and then turn it on me. Ask me a question. I’m a fan of “Did you know…” questions. For the Somaly Mam Foundation, it may be a question to make a point about the scope and magnitude of sex trafficking worldwide. If you work for an organization that advocates for kids, maybe you ask me something about MY kids.This question and exchange engages me and provides implicit permission from me for you to keep talking. You have changed this from a monologue to a discussion. You’ve just bought yourself time to tell me more.

4. Give Me One Example 

Clear, quick and simple. Here are two examples:

We just opened a beauty salon in Cambodia in partnership with Estee Lauder. Our girls are learning marketable skills and learning to run a business. Estee Lauder has been an amazing partner. (www.somaly.org)

We lobbied the New York Times to include same sex couples on its wedding pages. (www.glaad.org)

5. Let Your Passion Come Through

This is critical. If by any chance you have engaged me in a deeper way, I want to hear that you love what you do, that the work is hard and rewarding, that while there is never enough time or resources, it’s a privilege to do the work. You just might get me to ask if I can help.

6. Practice Makes Perfect

Practice kid, practice. Practice with your board at board meetings, with your staff at staff meetings. This is not a luxury item. Each of you is an ambassador and you have to get this right.

You have to get me at hello.

SO, WHAT DOES YOUR ORGANIZATION DO?

I have a question for you. Tell me about your organization. What does it do?

Go ahead, give me your nonprofit elevator pitch in the comments (below.) Give some feedback to others who have already commented.

Let’s start a really great conversation so we can all help each other get better at this and grow our nonprofits.

  • SethMRosen

    Joan, I usually say something like this:

    Gay Men’s Health Crisis provides men, women, and youth affected by HIV and AIDS in the New York City area with the services they need to stay healthy. We work with people who are both HIV negative and positive, and we provide testing, nutrition, legal, mental health and education services all day long at our two centrally located offices in Manhattan. We also advocate at the local, state and national level to make sure that people affected by HIV are treated equally and fairly. As the world’s first HIV and AIDS service organization we are experts in providing the services that every person affected by the epidemic deserves. You may have recently seen our groundbreaking work with young gay men of color featured on the front page of the New York Times in December. Can I take your card so I can send you an invitation to AIDS Walk NY in May?

    So in my speech there are a few things I always trying to work in. First, that we serve woman because some people still think we only serve men because of our name. Next, I do a quick list of our services since not enough people know that we provide a full complement of services, including meals and mental health counseling. Finally, I always try and ask for a card and to work in AIDS Walk because so many people in the NYC area have some connection with AIDS walk, and its a great way to get people involved.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      So for other readers, Seth is a development director. He SHOULD be really good at this :) But of course as I noted above, it is sadly often the case that folks are not. Seth – I was wondering if you could lose the NYT piece to shorten it. But I get why you included it – it’s about “front page NYT.” The one question I did have for Seth is about the title of the org. Do you always go with Gay Mens Health Crisis? Why not just GMHC? Lastly, thank you so much for sharing your pitch.

      • SethMRosen

        Joan, thank you. i do move between GMHC and Gay Men’s Health Crisis based on the audience, but for the right person including gay, health and crisis is important. I’d add that part of the elevator pitch is about reading your audience. It’s not a race to get through the whole thing, but rather you want to read the body language and facial expression of the person you’re talking to in an attempt to find out what is resonating.

  • Jim Marhold

    Joan, my answer is usually much shorter. (Maybe the line at my Starbucks isn’t as long as other places). I will usually state: Declarations provides homes and support services to individuals with disabilities throughout NJ.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Hi Jim. Thanks for sharing this with us. Some constructive feedback? Short is great (and I need to know the address of this Starbucks with a short line :) Two observations. (1) I’d like to know a specific example or a few examples (list) of services you provide. I might want to know either how many people you house or the # of clients you serve each year (2) I’m fascinated by the title of your organization. While I’m waiting for my latte, I will definitely ask. Not sure you should add to the pitch though. Wonder what other readers think? Thanks again.

      • Jim Marhold

        Joan, Thanks for the feedback. In my experience, shorter has always been better. With the longer speeches, one runs the risk of sounded too rehearsed. I have found that this “answer” usually results in additional questions similar to the one’s you posed. Hence, more buy in to the conversation. If no follow up questions are asked, the odds where they would have tuned out in the middle of a longer elevator speech. (I formerly worked at an agency that had an a long speech and I could see where people tuned out). As for the name of the organization, our role for our consumers is to help them gain their independence. As our founding fathers taught us, independence starts with Declarations.

        • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

          Love that. Independence starts with declarations. Keep up the good work Jim. And thanks for being a part of my subscriber tribe!

  • Valerie Young

    I’m fairly new to this, but I absolutely love your blog and think your feedback on my elevator pitch would be invaluable! So, here goes…

    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is a nonprofit on the coast of Maine. Our scientists seek to understand the processes driving global oceans and how the oceans relate to life on Earth. The scientists at the Laboratory come from all over the world to conduct their research, which focuses mainly on microbial oceanography – examining the smallest organisms in the ocean such as phytoplankton, algae, and viruses. Bigelow is also the home to one of the world’s largest collections of algae and sells these strains to other academic & research institutions and industry partners, such as pharmaceutical companies.

    At any given time, our scientists can be found out in the field from the polar regions to the South Pacific, collecting data to bring back to our state of the art laboratory facilities for analyzation. The new, LEED Platinum building houses some of the most advanced technology for single-cell sorting and genomics studies in the world. Some of the most important, current debates are surrounding ocean acidification, climate change, and ocean health – and at Bigelow Laboratory we’re studying the most fundamental pieces of those puzzles and helping to increase the world’s understanding of these ecosystems.

    It’s a bit long, I know. I try to point out right away that we are indeed a nonprofit (many people think we are a government-funded org due to gov’t research grants). Also, I like to note that we are located in Maine but do research all over the globe. Very much looking forward to everyone’s remarks – thank you!

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Valerie. Thanks for jumping into the conversation. You’re right it is long and my latte would no longer be hot :) but you have a lot to communicate and it’s quite technical. So you have a tough job. Some thoughts from me and then perhaps others.

      If you want folks to know about the global reach, tell em right up front. Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences is a nonprofit on the coast of Maine that does research worldwide OR that brings researchers from around the world together to…..

      To what? your next sentence is technical and vague. Pretend I am 10 years old. What problem are you trying to solve? You are trying to understand the processes IN THE SERVICE OF SOLVING WHAT PROBLEM?

      As for the rest of it, take the language out of the lab and put it at a kitchen table. What difference is your work making to me in my life or to my kids and the world I will leave behind. This might help you rethink the pitch. Hope this is helpful

  • WinChesson

    Love this post, Joan. Here’s mine for Immigration Equality. Would love to hear feedback from others about how this lands:

    Immigration Equality advocates at the intersection of three of the most potent civil rights issues of our time: LGBT, HIV, and immigration rights.
    We opened our free legal hotline in 1994 with three goals:

    1) End the HIV travel ban, which barred anyone with HIV from entering the United States –even as a tourist even for one day (If there is time, I will ask if they can guess the one exception to that law. The short answer was that if you are straight, you could apply for a waiver.)

    2) Win green cards for the husbands and wives of gay people. Until last summer, our families were force to make the impossible decision between family and country.

    3) Make asylum a possibility for gay and transgender people fleeing
    for the lives and seeking safety in the United states.

    We achieved the first goal in 2010, the second last summer, and the third
    ongoing goal is the core of our work moving forward. As things get worse
    for LGBT people in places Nigeria, India, Russia, calls to our hotline
    skyrocket. Fortunately, we 99% of our cases.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Hia Win. I like this even though it is a bit long. I like that you illustrate that you are a winner. I would love one statistic that tells me how big the asylum problem is (est # of folks seeking safe haven in the U.S. each year?). I think your last line is so powerful but opens with ‘fortunately.’ How about “I am proud to say that we win 99% of our cases.”

      Other reactions?

  • WinChesson

    I also wanted to share this much shorter pitch one of my favorite colleagues uses:

    In 76 countries around the world it is a crime to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. For LGBT and HIV-positive people, being out or being outed is life-threatening. Immigration Equality is proud to be the national leader in the field we
    pioneered: LGBT immigration rights. Every day we support gay and transgender
    asylum seekers, detainees and binational couples by providing expert pro bono
    legal counsel. We also fight to change the systems that hurt our families.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      I really like this for Starbucks. I don’t need to know that 2 of your three things are done. I need to know what you are doing, how good you are at and that you do this work PRO BONO (missing from the longer version btw).

      The state about the 76 countries is crazy powerful.

    • bill holston

      We at HRI are big supporters of Immigration Equality. We’ve done pro bono legal services for gay asylum seekers here in Dallas. Well done.

  • Theresa

    Long Island Arts Alliance is an alliance of not-for-profit cultural organizations that works to support arts and arts education on Long Island. We curate an online events calendar – ArtsAliveLI.org – celebrate each October as “Arts Month” on Long Island and provide professional development and support for our region’s artists and art educators. We also give scholarships to high school students who excel in both the arts and academics. In 2014 we launched a monthly half-hour television program -Arts Alive LI Presents – about our region’s cultural arts destinations and the impact of the arts on economic development.

    How’s that?

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      I REALLY like this one. I get what you do in that first sentence. And each of your brief examples are very clear and cover a broad range of program work. I’m not sure I would change a word. I’d be interested in what others think.

      • Theresa

        Thanks for the feedback and for your wonderful blog! It’s so extremely helpful and in this case, great to know I’m on the right track!

        • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

          I am so very glad you find the blog helpful. It’s very gratifying to hear.

  • AnnTCook

    “Many Voices is creating a movement for gay and transgender (or LGBT) justice from within the Black church.” Usually I pause, because it takes a moment for that to sink in, and for the person to have some reaction, and then I go from there, responding to whatever they express. Usually I go on with something like, “A lot of Black pastors want to be supportive but don’t feel equipped to respond to questions about the Bible, or how can they say that as a Christian? So we provide a safe space in a Black church context for pastors to get up to speed and then speak out publicly. Also, because Black LGBT people haven’t shared their lives that much, we’re sharing their stories through a really powerful video campaign. If you like, you can see them at our website, manyvoices.org.”

    Would LOVE feedback. Thanks so much for this conversation.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Ann. Your first sentence really grabs me!!! I want to know more. When I hear more, I learn that the work is about pastors. Even more interested. So why not put the pastors in the opening sentence – right up front. And when you get to the ‘how,’ it gets a bit fuzzy. “Provide a safe space in a Black church for pastors to get up to speed…” Not clear enough to me WHAT you do. I totally get that Many Voices works with pastors inside Black churches to create a movement for LGBT justice. Compelling mission. But I want more specific examples of HOW you do that. And to keep it shorter, you could drop the sentence that explains WHY. Lastly, in the HOW, if you can drop in SCOPE or MAGNITUDE of impact. Last year we trained over X pastors in over Y cities….. Happy to keep this conversation going.

      • http://blog.abstractedge.com Scott Paley

        I’m curious why you think it’s good to drop the “why.” I’ve seen compelling evidence that people care much more why do you something than how you do it. Great TED talk on this – http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html

        • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

          Hey Scott. I think it depends on your opening. Sometimes the ‘why’ is implicit in the brief description. Or can be folded into one of the examples. That’s what I was going for with Ann. Build in scope and magnitude into one of your examples and it covers the ‘why’ and the ‘what.’ If you look at Win Chesson’s pitch for Immigration Equality, the shorter one, he starts with the why. It’s not an exact science. And I will definitely check out this Ted Talk.

  • Liz Miller

    Sense of Security provides financial assistance to Colorado breast cancer patients in treatment so they can focus on rest and recovery. Basically, we pay their bills, things like rent or mortgage, gas & groceries and other basic living expenses. (pause to let info sink in)

    Over the past 14 years, we have served more than 1,000 patients by providing $1.5 million towards housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, COBRA or insurance premiums. We are proud that our services allow patients to stay in their homes and have enough good food to nourish themselves and their families. We are small but mighty, and all funds raised stay in Colorado.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Liz. Home run elevator pitch. Did it come to you naturally or was there a process to develop this. You cover SO much turf in two short paragraphs. Is your board as good at this as you are??? Congrats. This is really great.

      • Liz Miller

        Thank you so much, Joan. There was definitely a process behind our pitch’s development – last year we undertook a Branding committee initiative, and conducted some focus groups with our stakeholders, and most of our board participated as well.
        We’re still working on streamlining some other aspects, such as our tagline and mission statement, so the process is ongoing, however, it’s encouraging to know that we are moving in the right direction. I’ll be sure to share the good news, and hope our example provides food for thought for others in the nonprofit world.

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  • L. Moore

    Ok, so how can you make a quality pitch for an NPO that you are just starting that has not yet provided services yet?

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Great question and easier than you think. Sell the vision. Paint a picture of the roadmap. Get people excited about the journey and ask them to join you on it. Give them vision (“imagine a world with…../ or without…..”) and then give them a taste of the path you are going to take to get there. Position a gift as an opportunity to make this NPO a reality and to start on your way down that path. Hope the advice is helpful. And good luck!

      • L. Moore

        Yes, it is very helpful. Thank you so much.

  • Jesse Gantt

    Hi Joan! Sorry I’m joining the conversation a little late. Just catching up on all the wonderful and very helpful information you share. Here’s what I say:
    The Foundation for Hope is a community outreach organization helping people dealing with bullying, depression, or suicide. We staff a 24/7 hotline providing support, referrals, and crisis intervention. We raise awareness by hosting public engagements in schools and in the community. And we recently opened the A Place for Hope Community Center in downtown Harrisburg to provide a safe space for people to go for support. Our mission is to create a safety net of support so people dealing with bullying, depression, or suicide know that there are people in our community who care and will do everything in thier power to help them through this tough time in their lives.

    New at this, so feedback is always welcomed.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      First of all, thanks for what you are doing. Your organization is clearly filling an important role in your community. I think you can combine the first and last sentence to tighten it up a bit. The other sentences are great with one exception. I’d love to have some numbers to give me a sense of scope. # of calls that come into the hotline. Maybe something about the vision for center??? To inspire me about your new project. Hope this is helpful.

      • Jesse Gantt

        VERY helpful! Thank you so much!

        • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

          you’re welcome!

  • bill holston

    Since 1999, we have been providing free legal services to immigrants fleeing violence. We do this through relationships with some of the best lawyers in America, so that with a small intrepid staff of 10 we performed almost 4 million dollars of free legal services.
    Whether it is a pro democracy activist from Ethiopia who is escaping torture, an immigrant woman escaping domestic violence, or a young teenager from Honduras, escaping gang violence we help them start a new life in the United States.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Bill. Seems like you have had some practice. I think this is great. I clearly get the WHY and i get enough of the HOW. I also LOVE the ‘small intrepid staff of 10″ and “$4 million in free legal services. This is an organization doing great work that makes a very compelling pitch in just a few short sentences. NIcely done.

      • bill holston

        thanks Joan. This is such a great resource.

  • Lisa Franz

    Hi. We are starting a brand new school in Boston and this pitch is written as if we are in business even though we are starting in 2015. We are starting to fundraise now and need feedback on how to get donors invested.

    The Wright School of Boston offers a space where students the tools and skills to
    tackle today’s problems. Rather than be discouraged and overwhelmed, our students are empowered to be the change in the world. Because we know if we can make
    our students tomorrow’s innovators, we are really making tomorrow’s leaders.

    Did you know that anxiety is the number one problem facing children and adolescents today? Did you realize that some of the leading causes of this anxiety are a lack of self-confidence, loss of community, media bombardment, and a lack of
    ability to know what to do with these negative feelings?

    One unit we do is a public health campaign. We know that middle school students are bombarded everyday with the lure of junk food and bad dietary choices. But we all know that preaching to adolescents does not work. Through our food unit, students study the food system in America, as well as the political and corporate decisions behind this system and then they create the public health campaign to combat childhood obesity and dietary health problems.

    We are driven by our desire to help young people navigate the challenges of today’s world by giving them the tools to take charge of their own learning.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Lisa. I’ve been away – sorry for the delay in replying. First off, a noble mission for a school if ever I heard one. I have a few comments about this elevator pitch. 1) Why would you talk about the school in the present tense when it is not up and running? Often donors like to be “angel’ investors in something new and innovative, getting in on a new idea on the ground floor. Do you miss that excitement messaging it THIS way? 2) You make the statement “students are empowered to be the change in the world. I want to know HOW. What are you doing that is different and 3) you talk about anxiety which interests me greatly but not about how your school will grapple with it and then you drive right to public health which feels unrelated.

      Think about what is really different that will happen at your school that other schools just TALK about. And bring that to life. Condense it. Are you doing coursework on managing anxiety? Now THAT has me very interested! Best of luck and hope this was helpful

  • http://www.shilohhouse.org Lara Maerz

    Shiloh House assists children struggling with behavioral and emotional issues due to neglect and abuse through providing residential treatment that will allow them to transition back into the home if possible or into the foster care system. We provide home like environments with 24/7 awake staff members and have our own on campus schools. Shiloh was founded in 1985 and is the only owner operated facility of our kind still managed by the original owners. Our staff has doubled over the last 5 years allowing us to serve even more children and provide them a safe haven as they heal.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Lara. Somehow this comment slipped through the cracks for me. So sorry. Hope this response is not too late to be of help. This is a terrific pitch. Really. The only thing you might want to add is what happens after they heal. And what kind of successes have you seen in the kids when they head back to the home? I’m left with a ‘what happens after’ question. But you could use this as a pitch and then in a conversation say “So let me give you an example. A kid came to us xxxxxxx and as a result of our work, she left and xxxxxxx. How wonderful that families have Shiloh to turn to.

  • http://www.tuffmotherondarun.com Jennifer Adams

    Mountain Circle Family Services is a non-profit community based organization, committed to ensuring stability and life sustaining changes for foster and adoptive children. We also have a therapy program and our only fundraiser is an annual Boston Qualifying Marathon is in Greenville, CA – home to less than 1200 people.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Jennifer. Sorry for the late response. So here are some thoughts. First, working with kids is something that people really respond to so if you can bring this pitch to life more, you can really engage lots of folks. What ARE the programs that ensure stability and life sustaining changes? Workshops for parents? Placement? I can’t tell what you do specifically. Don’t include a laundry list but bring the work to life. And therapy for whom? Lastly, an elevator pitch would not typically include info about its annual fundraiser. You could, after a great pitch, talk about your incredible annual event and encourage the prospect to buy a ticket. And I’m not sure I know why the location of the event is important. Remember to use your time wisely and focus on the why and then bring the what to life for me. Thanks for writing.

      • http://www.tuffmotherondarun.com Jennifer Adams

        Wow. I took our mission statement thinking naively that it would be a great response. I LOVE your comments!!! I’ll work on it.

        • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

          Glad I could be helpful!

          • http://www.tuffmotherondarun.com Jennifer Adams

            Revised:
            Mountain Circle is a non-profit organization committed to
            ensuring stability and life sustaining changes for foster and adoptive
            children. We offer extensive training to
            foster parents, programs such as equine therapy and back to school supplies to
            assist the kids, as well as 24/7 support for the foster parents. We match the children to the parents to help
            assure positive, long term foster care placements. We have a therapy program that foster
            children can utilize but is also open to the public. Marriage, family and individual therapy are
            offered daily at our office.

          • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

            WAY better!!!!!!!!!! Good luck.

  • Terry Hathaway

    Calgary Crime Stoppers
    helps keep our community safe by providing an anonymous place for the public to
    provide law enforcement information regarding criminal activity. Our call
    centre receives over 10,000 contacts every year which results in 10 new
    “tips” every day. We offer cash rewards for information leading to
    the arrest of a wanted person, seizure of illegal drugs and recovery of stolen
    property. With over 5,000 persons arrested, 13,000 cases cleared and $285,000,000.00
    worth of drugs seized our impact is undeniable.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Hia Terry. So first off, I am really glad you do what you do. Second off, you score high marks with this pitch. Can you directly attribute the impact metrics to CCS? These things happened as a result of anonymous tips? Over how long a period of time? If the answer is yes, SAY THAT! makes this even more impressive. Do you have paid staff that man the call centre? Or volunteers? Now I’m just curious. And that is a very good thing indeed. Your pitch made me want to know more!!!!!!! Thanks for writing and hope this was helpful!

  • Andrea Taylor

    Hi Joan– I feel very fortunate to have found your site– this is something we have struggled with for a long time. Before I give you background, I’d like to hear how effectively we would be communicating with this elevator speech:

    “Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services– we call it
    GCB, provides people in Southwest Ohio who have serious mental illnesses, like
    schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, the tools and support they need to be
    healthier, both mentally and physically.

    With a recent merger now complete, we now provide treatment for
    substance addictions as well. We are a “one-stop shop” for living more productively with mental illness. From psychiatry and primary care to family counseling and job training, GCB offers a system of hope for our clients and their loved ones.”

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Not sure how your comment slipped by me. So sorry. I do try to respond quickly to all comments on the site. First off, your work is so badly needed. So thank you. The elevator pitch is strong, to the point and clear. It’s missing one important element you might consider. Heart. Or maybe facts. “X thousand people in Southwest Ohio struggle with mental illness and substance abuse. Not everyone can afford private counseling or inpatient services. Both of these issues can tear families apart. ” Maybe a sentence or two like this that adds IMPACT and HEART???

  • Lillian

    “If you look the right way, you
    will see the promise of a better life for you and me. If you
    listen, you will learn, Unique Lady’s in Transition is the “RIGHT TURN.”
    The goals of Unique Lady’s
    In Transition Resource Center offer to meet the immediate needs to assist women
    of domestic violence crisis, by establishing a business that will meet them at
    their cross-road. Our passion
    is to pay it forward by helping to empower other women that are victims/or
    survivors of Domestic Violence. Our vision and mission is establishing a
    business to educate and assure immediate needs to victims.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Lillian. Thanks for joining the conversation. Sounds like you do great work. First, I’m curious why the organization is called Unique Lady’s In Transition rather than Unique Ladies In Transition…. As for your elevator pitch, I am a bit unclear about exactly what you mean by “establishing a business” — do you help women start their own businesses? Do you provide training to these women so they can? And starting a business is time consuming so I’m not clear about how you “assure immediate needs?” I think these are some of the questions you’d get from folks. Hope this is helpful.

  • Arnold Weinfeld

    Prima Civitas is a statewide nonprofit
    organization working to strengthen Michigan’s economy. We focus on work in four key economic drivers of the 21st century –
    talent/workforce development; innovation and initiatives in emerging markets,
    regional development and global connectivity.
    We leverage relationships with the public and private sector,
    educational institutions and other key partners, to act as conveners,
    connecting assets and working collaboratively as we add capacity to ongoing
    initiatives and new projects.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Arnold. Sounds like great work. That said, your pitch is very abstract. I want to know HOW you leverage relationships — it’s not clear what you DO. I get the problem. How about a recent success that illustrates the work????

  • Mary Robinson

    We are working to help grieving children and teens who have had a parent or sibling die, to grow up emotionally healthy and able to lead meaningful and productive lives. We provide peer support groups led by adult volunteer facilitators who create a safe environment that allows children to develop health coping skills
    for dealing with the painful feelings that accompany loss and we advocate on
    behalf of these children in schools and communities through our Fostering
    Resilience in Grieving Children workshops and presentations. I believe the world is driven by unresolved grief and that if we can teach children to cope with their pain in healthy ways we will be able to transform grief, loss and trauma into resilience, empathy and compassion, which will create resilient healthy communities.

    Do you know any children currently coping with loss of any kind? It doesn’t have to be due to death.. it can be divorce, a parent or sibling diagnosed with an illness, or simply not making their team of choice.

    One of the really cool programs we have is #Here4U where we go into the schools and train students to be peer mentors and have them deliver a workshop about loss and grief with us for their fellow students.

    Imagine is a labor of love for me. I do this work because there was literally no support 40 years ago for children who were grieving, and I was a child in grief. Actually a teen. My father died of cancer when I was 14 and my brother and I lost years of our lives to unresolved grief. And there was no need for that IF we had
    gotten support.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Mary. I admire you for the personal journey that led you to this work. I have family that benefit from organizations like yours. Where is your org? Is it local, national, state-based? Would like to know that. I might lead with your LAST paragraph. Did you found the organization? Say so if you did. That is powerful. I like the example you used ALOT. You could probably edit down the original first paragraph and make it a bit tighter but I would open with your last graph. Lead with THAT at an event and you absolutely have captured my attention and my heart. Best of luck and thanks for what you are doing.

  • Arnold Weinfeld

    Joan…you asked for an example of the work Prima Civitas does that might describe my elevator pitch. Here is it is: I-69 International Trade Corridor.
    The Project: Prima Civitas facilitated the coordination of
    four county governments and 31 municipalities to form the extensive I-69
    International Trade Corridor Next Michigan Development
    Corporation (NMDC).
    Results:
    I-69 Corridor earned International Economic Development Council’s Bronze Award.
    Qualifying businesses benefit from state/local incentives, including real/personal property tax abatements, and tax-free Renaissance Zones.
    Prima Civitas Vice President Jim Smiertka was recognized in a March 21, 2013 Forbes.com article highlighting the promise of NMDC for the region and state.

    • http://joangarry.com/ Joan Garry

      Arnold. I love hearing from such a wide diversity of organizations that serve the public interest so thanks for writing. As for your ‘pitch’ you are very clear about what you do and the recognition of the VP offers authority and credibility. What is missing here is the WHY? WHY is what you are doing and accomplishing making a difference? That would help this pitch alot.

  • Samantha West

    Great article, Joan. My pitch below. Looking forward to your feedback!

    The Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Great Lakes Chapter helps the 170,000 families across 23 Michigan counties currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. We provide amazing resources like our website and 24-7 helpline, free classes on everything from the 10 warning signs to how to talk to your family about your diagnosis, and support groups that connect people who are going through this journey so that they know they’re not alone.

    Did you know Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and the only one in the top 10 without a way to prevent, slow, or cure it? And actually, a woman is twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s in her lifetime as she is to get breast cancer. Those facts keep us up at night, which is why we are also fighting every day to increase concern and awareness about the disease and encouraging the government to increase funding for research so we can find a cure and end Alzheimer’s once and for all.

  • Michael Ladd

    The New Albany (IN) UEA has many responsibilities, first among them being downtown revitalization. But we have others as well. Under my tutelage the enterprise zone experienced an estimated $26 Million in private and public investment and an estimated 1,500+ jobs increase while property values increased by an estimated 200% between 2006-2012.

    Other important project include increasing the skill set of our existing workforce, educating new entrepreneurs about our community and working with the state university to educate potential high school and college-age want-to-be entrepreneurs about the pros and pit-falls of business start-ups and ownership. We accomplished our goals by engaging and connecting potential business leaders with existing community business and political leaders through a series of meeting and seminars that discussed opportunities within a community in the midst of revitalization.

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