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

by Joan Garry

There are 5 practices of outstanding nonprofit leaders. Want to know what they are?

There’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.


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.


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?


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 with the help of 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. (

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

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.


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

Go ahead, give me your 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.

211 thoughts on “The Big Mistake That’s Hurting Your Nonprofit (and How to Fix It)”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 – – 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. “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,”
    Would LOVE feedback. Thanks so much for this conversation.

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

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

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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!

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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.”

  39. “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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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???

  44. 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????

  45. 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.

  46. 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).
    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 article highlighting the promise of NMDC for the region and state.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. I am late to the party, but good advice is timeless. Here is the 30 second elevator speech I wrote today, using Joan Garry’s advice:
    “Roots Ethiopia is working to build a poverty free world. We
    believe there should be no barriers to Ethiopian families succeeding in work
    and at school. We help families send their children to school, we help women create
    valuable local market work, and we join with communities to improve their
    schools so everyone has a chance to learn!
    We know that if we do this in rural Ethiopia, we are building economic
    and educational equality worldwide. We are a smart and small organization with strong local leadership in Ethiopia. We have 100 kids in school, 114 women led businesses, and 7 schools with stand-out learning resources. We are change-makers!

  51. The Ladies of Like Minds Community Coalition partner with women, women organizations and other nonprofit organizations to raise money and awareness through our Adopt-A-Prom Program, Great Give Away Program and coming soon the 419 Program. The Adopt-A-Prom Program focus on senior high school girls who need financial assistance with their prom. Through the Great Give Away program women who have been affected by human trafficing and teen mothers have recieved needed donations and funding. The 419 Program is a referral system that will be developed help mothers and girls in need.

  52. I’m super late…
    Family Assistance for Renaissance Men (FARM) is a non-profit
    organization committed to developing relationships between fathers and their
    children. We are rehabilitating the thought processes of fathers and helping
    them to identify and step into their vital role in the lives of their children.
    We provide father accountability counseling as well as father & child
    relationship building activities. We can also offer support for fathers to
    reach their educational and skills training goals. FARM assists with legal adjudication and child support arrearages and we help fathers to secure safe housing. We are the ray of hope to keep fathers connected with their children – physically, financially and emotionally.

  53. Muscatine Center for Social Action is a nonprofit organization in Muscatine, Iowa, that annually serves more than 700 men, women and children through its homeless and domestic violence shelters and other programming. After nearly 25 years in our community, we are known locally as MCSA.
    In addition to our shelters, we offer a Homeless Prevention Program and rent 35 dorm rooms to men over age 18 who have steady incomes and need affordable longterm housing. We are also home to a vision clinic for low-income adults, a pediatric dental clinic and a mental-health counseling office.
    MCSA is dedicated to serving those in need. I am the deputy director and my duties include fundraising, grant writing, marketing and public relations.

  54. Hi Joan, I just came across this wonderful post and wanted to share our elevator pitch in case you’re still checking the comments. Our organization is all over the place with our offering and this process has been a challenge. Thanks for your advice!
    The Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC) is a non-profit association
    for colleges and universities providing services to make their jobs visible
    and accessible to the most talented and diverse candidates.
    We work to create shared resources like our job board and dual-career network so members can make the most of their recruitment efforts and investments.
    Our members are our stakeholders and their success is what inspires our work every day.
    For fifteen years, we have fostered an innovative peer-network of human
    resources, faculty affairs, and diversity leaders. With a growing community of 17 regions, 700 institutions and 4,000 professionals, we never lack in inspiration and learning opportunities to advance our shared goals to achieve equity and

  55. The Faison Center gives each
    individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder the best chance to improve their life’s
    journey. We believe that individuals with ASD can lead productive and meaningful lives and Faison is committed to
    providing the tools to make that possible.
    Our services span the life cycle and include early intervention, full
    time day school, life skills and employment training, consultation, adult day
    services and residential options. The
    most recent feather in our cap is the Faison Residence which offers supported,
    semi-independent living to individuals on the spectrum. Everything we do is research driven – we only
    use proven strategies that deliver results.
    In keeping with our holistic approach, The Faison Center also serves the
    Greater Richmond community and Central Virginia by developing autism education
    practices and programs for teachers, medical professionals, school
    professionals, first responders, families and the general public. Exceptional progress is made possible every day
    at Faison.

  56. I don’t know if you are still checking comments, but I would love your input on our elevator pitch:
    Lowcountry Autism Foundation strives to improve the lives of
    people with Autism from diagnosis to adulthood.
    Once a child is diagnosed with Autism the family is thrown into a
    complicated web of therapies and services.
    LAF’s goal is to decrease the stress on the family and connect them with
    every available resource. We also
    develop programs to address some of the most difficult challenges that come with
    a diagnosis.

  57. Susan. Yes, still checking comments – have been traveling recently so I am a bit backlogged. I like what you have here. Here are some suggestions / questions. Can you give any examples of services or resources so the pitch comes to life – the challenge here is that the pitch is not specific enough and the need is not quite clear enough.
    Try something like this
    When a kid is diagnosed with Autism,the family is thrown into a scary world with a complex web of resources. It’s stressful.Lowcountry Autism Foundation serves as your family’s guide through these often bumpy waters. We make it our business to know all the resources out there thanks to a dedicated and knowledgeable staff and help to ensure that your child gets the best care possible and that your family can address the challenges of a diagnosis with a lack of stress and an abundance of resources.

  58. Amy. Clearly your organization does amazing work. The challenge here is that this pitch is too much of a laundry list. You sound like a huge organization doing incredible things but this is too scatter shot. One thing that might help you in materials or on your website is an infographic that follows someone diagnosed with ASD – almost like a timeline of age. At varying points on the timeline, add a service so that folks can easily see the service you provide at different steps along the way. Last thing: just went to your website. Your website leads with the fact that the Faison Center is a SCHOOL. This is lost in your pitch. Hope this is helpful. Joan

  59. I appreciate the feedback! This is exactly why we’ve entered into a rebranding process. We started as a school and are heavily rooted in that history. But over the last few years we have grown into so much more and our language hasn’t kept up. As of July 1 we are officially The Faison Center but we’re trying to get everything else up to speed. The graphic below is a patch over I had created. Hopefully, we can flesh it out further. Thanks again!

  60. I hope you’re still checking these comments. Wonderful article! Thank you. Our small nonprofit would love your help with an elevator pitch. What do you think of this: “AND JUSTICE FOR ALL” is the resource-raising and –sharing umbrella
    organization for Utah’s civil legal aid agencies, working for 16 years to
    provide an attorney for Utah’s most vulnerable. Our partners have helped over half a million low-income and disabled individuals and victims of domestic violence meet their most basic needs: ensuring safety, stabilizing families, preventing homelessness, increasing income, and fostering self-sufficiency.
    And we benefit the benevolent by giving donors one legal aid organization to know, love and support (because many can agree that there are just too many nonprofits vying for the same pool of money and limited attention), and do it in a cost-effective and efficient manner. Every dollar donated to AJFA results in $7.27 return on investment in community benefit and savings to the taxpayers. And while many attorneys’ hourly fees can be upwards of $500 or $600, we can tackle a protective order case for just $200, start to finish.
    Did you know that civil legal aid is the number one most effective way to prevent future domestic violence?

  61. Here’s my first try!
    Over the past 26 years the Animal Shelter Assistance Program (ASAP) has stopped the euthanizing of southern Santa Barbara County homeless cats and kittens for population control reasons. We provide daily care and sheltering for over 1000 cats and foster homes for over 300 kittens every year. We also provide adoption services and assist the public in finding their lost cat. We rely on almost 200 volunteers and have only 4 paid staff members. ASAP is known in our community for ground breaking advertising and adoption promotion strategies, as well as implementing a stellar behavior program to increase the adoptability of the cats and kittens in our care. I’m constantly amazed at everything we are able to accomplish!

  62. Journey to New Life provides counseling and financial services, including emergency housing, to ex-offenders. We’re proud to make Kansas City a safer place to live and work by showing people how to succeed in a different way of life. Our staff of less than ten people works with over 100 clients every week. While 2 of every 3 ex-offenders in the nation return to jail, less than 1 in 10 of our clients do. .

  63. Susan. This is really good. I wonder about your use of the word “ex-offenders” – I have heard some organizations use a phrase like “those impacted by the criminal justice system” or “those who have experienced the criminal justice system.” Is there a way in the pitch to diminish the pejorative nature of the phrase. I’m also not entirely clear what “how to succeed in a different way of life” means. Your last sentence is AH-mazing.

  64. I agree with you on the ex-offenders (trying to be succinct). I’ll also look at rephrasing the ‘succeed’ sentence. I appreciate your feedback, Joan!
    How about “those returning from the criminal justice system”?

  65. Kaitlyn. First off, I am a pet owner and lover of rescue animals so I’m really passionate about this issue. A few questions. Your opening sentence indicates that because of your org, there is NO euthanizing in southern Santa Barbara county. True?? No other shelter in that area euthanizes? Also I think it should be more prominent that you are all about cats. Interesting that your name doesn’t reflect that. I like the ad and promotion piece. Lastly an elevator pitch would not typically include the last sentence.

  66. I’m so sorry to be delayed in responding. As my article suggests, there can be a tendency (as a result of enthusiasm and passion) to put too much into a pitch. This pitch is loaded with great info. TOO much. And it’s not clear enough. You are a fundraising organization? Do you grant money to local legal aid organizations? And for statistics, I’d rather know about # of clients whose lives you have changed and compare that with the need.

  67. Chris — I don’t know how this comment slipped through the cracks. SO sorry. I really like your pitch. You can lose the last sentence of graph 1 to save time. Your second graph is perfect. Maybe one statistic about the NEED?

  68. Chantelle. I am even later still. I am SO SO sorry not to respond sooner. This is absolutely terrific. Would not change a thing. I totally get what you do. It’s perfect. I hope there are lots of other organizations out there doing this kind of work.

  69. Should I be adding one more phrase at the end where I mention how it’s being done?
    “We are working to reconnect young people and prevent future disconnection by empowering youth to overcome their own obstacles.”
    Any feedback would be great!

  70. Daniel. Thanks for sharing your pitch. Sounds like you are doing important work but I have to be honest and say that I don’t know, based on this what exactly you do. Reconnect young people to????? Each other? To society? What young people? Troubled? Homeless? Give it another go and this time imagine you are typing a note to a 10 year old. Better to start with longer and edit down.

  71. We are working to reduce inequality in New Jersey. We help young people who are born into situations with scarce-opportunities because they deserve a chance to enjoy this American life just as much as the next person. We invest in these young people with a wide-range of resources, education, and a lifelong network of support with our mentors and teachers. I am passionate about this because it was not very long ago that I was the person I am helping now.

  72. WOW. What a transformation. Do you see the difference? Do you FEEL it in your words? You started with a vague tag line and transformed into a invitation to join you in this remarkable and important work. Made ever so much more meaningful because of your profound connection to the work.
    No need for any HOW. Your pitch will lead me to ask questions as I will want to know more!!!
    It’s fantastic!

  73. Sorry for delay! Your comment inspired me so much I just ran with the energy…it was the first time I smiled all weekend. Thanks for being there 🙂
    I have this pitch tomorrow at 11am. I first met with this group about a month ago – one of my partners/team mates was able to facilitate that connection – I spoke for about 5 minutes last month just to intro myself and for them to see if they wanted me presenting any longer than 5 minutes. Now they scheduled me for 25 minutes tomorrow.
    I was thinking of talking for maybe a few minutes and then getting the conversation going. what do you think?
    I know it’s late now so no worries if you don’t get back to me tonight, but do you think I should go through the 5-8 minute pitch or go slow…almost slide by slide and ask them for information before moving on to the next point. Let them build the idea together with me as we move through the high-level framework of what I am thinking. It takes a lot of pressure off me just to talk to your comment box – feels like someone is listening.
    I was asked to give an intro pitch about a month ago where I tried to keep people excited. They were

  74. A little late to the party, but this is a significant issue for us and would appreciate any feedback you might have. Here is the most current working draft.
    The Arts Commission is an artist service and advocacy organization that manages Toledo’s public art collection, engages youth in the arts, and supports arts-based and culturally-based community development, all working together to enhance arts and cultural experiences and opportunities for residents and tourists, while fostering a supportive environment for artists of all kinds to live, work, and create in Toledo.
    We are home to the first public art program in Ohio, have hired more than 1000 youth apprentices for intensive summer training learning job skills and creative skills over the past 20 years, are working to lead arts-based neighborhood redevelopment in and around the downtown Toledo area to highlight and connect the unique cultural assets of each, and we offer opportunities to educate and train local artists for professional development.

  75. Ryan. The party is ongoing! This is really fantastic. Your last graph rocks. One of the best succinct descriptions of what an arts commission actually DOES. We know why they exist but you actually explain the what. If you needed to condense, you could tighten up the first graph a bit – it gets a bit list-heavy. Could you go from “advocacy organization that enhances arts and cultural experiences….. ” as a way of tightening up? It’s good as is – I just might recommend getting to that second graph more quickly. i EVEN think you could almost lead with the WHAT graph and tie the vision in at the end.
    As the home to the first public arts program in OH, The Toledo Arts Commission has… THEN at the end add ‘ We do this in the services of enhancing arts and cultural opps for residents and tourists, while……
    Just another way of looking at it. But the goods? You’ve got em.

  76. Joan, so glad I found this thread! Would appreciate any advice!
    What do we do? the harris project raises awareness about a disease few have heard of – co-occurring disorders (COD). It is when people have mental health challenges and turn to substances to self-medicate. 9.2 million Americans meet the criteria for a diagnosis of COD, 60-70% of all addicted to substances have COD, yet we are the
    only non-profit committed to this cause.
    WE ADVOCATE: to make an individualized, integrated and comprehensive treatment model the norm because if you treat the substance abuse side or the mental health side alone, sustained recovery is nearly impossible. Each person and his or her individual challenges must be assessed, the amount of mental health and substance abuse treatment specific to that situation must be determined, and the entire person must be looked at.
    WE EDUCATE: high school and college students about the relationship between mental health challenges and substance abuse – in the 80’s the message was “Just Say No”, but at the harris project we are determined to educate our young people as to why they and their friends should say no. Knowledge is power, and the life of someone with COD is anything but a party.
    WE SUPPORT EARLY INTERVENTION: by certifying people in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA). YMHFA is likened to CPR for the mind. It is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to help a young person who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The training is very hands-on and comprehensive, helping you identify, understand, and respond
    to signs of mental health disorders and addictions. Supporting our young people
    and their families, letting them know they are not alone, and making good
    mental health and well-being a national priority is critical.
    co-occurring disorders: out of the shadows and into the light

  77. Freedom and Fashion works to empower young female survivors of the sex trade through creative arts mentorship. We use fashion and beauty curriculum to help them discover their voice, heal from past traumas, and learn marketable skills. We partner with organizations working to fight sex trafficking and child marriage in places like Los Angeles and Bangladesh. If we can achieve our mission in some of the biggest sex crime hotspots of the world, we’ll be on the road to ending the abuse and oppression of women everywhere.

  78. We work to ensure that children are a part of every policy discussion. We want elected officials to put the needs of children first when they create or change a law, especially since everything from school funding and meal programs to housing and health insurance directly impact young people’s lives. To do this, we partner with other advocacy organizations as well as service providers, like school districts. We raise awareness about changes needed and influence the governor and legislators. Our voices are much stronger together. If we can get people to prioritize children, we can make Allegheny County the best place to grow up.

  79. Peacebuilding
    Solutions (PS) was founded to revolutionize the way humanitarian
    aid is delivered in the field by treating refugee and internally displaced
    person (IDP) populations holistically. Put simply, PS’s long-term operational
    goal is to deliver humanitarian aid in an integrated way that empowers the
    communities we serve, working alongside them to help restore their hope and
    their dignity. We always start with the most important question: “How can we help you help yourselves?”
    Currently, PS has implemented a pilot project in Gressier, Haiti to address the needs of an IDP community displaced by the 2010 earthquake but who has not received humanitarian aid since 2011. An initial research trip coordinated by PS’ Research Department gathered information through key informant interviews, environmental scans, and group interviews so that PS could tailor initiatives based on the wants and needs of the community. The results showed that the community needed access to water, sanitation, and shelters in the present however economic opportunities and education seemed to be a more long term goal for the community. PS created an initiative based on the data collected which included bringing water collection/filtration systems, providing agricultural tools for economic opportunities, as well as school supplies and shoes for the children of the community. Every part of aid given was determined by the community in collaboration with our organization.

  80. Geneva. Great! Some thoughts: Raises a few questions that you might want to work into the elevator pitch. do these mentorships lead to jobs? do the partner organizations shelter these women? And then one possible question that could come up — why fashion and beauty? It feels like it reinforces their previous lives as sex objects. I wonder if there isn’t a way to add something to preempt that ‘objection?’

  81. I’m assuming speaking twice as fast isn’t acceptable?
    Very well.
    PS does something simple, yet revolutionary: after a natural or a man-made disaster, we ask displaced communities how we can help…
    Then we do it, and make sure we give those communities the space to empower themselves.
    It’s as simple as that.

  82. Joan,
    Thanks so much for the replies! This is helping me focus a bit, I admit.
    Unfortunately… I get what you’re saying in regard to the second sentence, but the issue is that we don’t have a specific plan until we ask first. Do they need a school? Then we plan for that. A clinic? Shelters? A specific kind of water system? We plan for that, but until they tell us first (and that’s why it’s so important to do research first), we don’t know.
    What would you suggest, given the stipulations I outlined, to address that second sentence to make it more tangible?

  83. Greg. Say something JUST LIKE THAT. How about something like this? (then I must go back and watch the Mets lose)
    After a natural or a man-made disaster, we ask displaced communities how we can help. They tell us and we get to it. It could be a clinic, a shelter or a water system. Our work is shaped by the communities we serve. By putting these communities in the driver’s seat, we empower them and partner with them to rebuild their lives.
    Hope this is helpful

  84. note to self: save Mets games on my calendar as potential dates Joan is available to write mission statements!!
    @greg_hodgin:disqus sounds like your project is awesome and definitely needed. Your empathy is glowing through your prose. I will be of great value to not only your project, but also the many lives you will impact.
    Please feel free to add me to your update list if you have one or if you have a link I can click through.

  85. @socialentrepreneurship:disqus absolutely! We’re at Pardon the mess; we’re revamping the website right now but we are excited for the future and the ability to help people help themselves.
    @joangarry:disqus, It is very helpful, thank you so much for your input! I wish I spoke/typed half as well as you did! It took us years to stop speaking “academic-ese” and break down our mission into easily digestible chunks. I am heartened that we can finally do that now. Keep up the great work here!

  86. Thanks for any advice you and your readers can offer:
    The Free Clinics enhances the healthcare system in Henderson County and Polk Counties by ensuring the accessibility of quality healthcare for uninsured, low-income clients through a team of community volunteers. At TFC our community comes together to help our most vulnerable neighbors address their healthcare concerns with everything from access to a doctor’s visit to prescription assistance to helping with food and transportation challenges that can impact our patients’ ability to stay healthy.
    Many people don’t realize that 1 in 5 residents of Henderson and Polk counties still lack insurance even with the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. At TFC we know that health is everyone’s responsibility and we work together to make Henderson and Polk County a healthier place for our neighbors in need and for ourselves.
    At TFC anyone can make a difference as a volunteer, an advocate or through a donation. Many of our donors appreciate knowing that we turn every dollar we receive into $8.53 worth of care for our patients! Can I bring you over to TFC for a tour? I know you’ll be amazed!

  87. One of the challenges we face with our organization is differentiating it from therapeutic riding, so we had to find a way not only to emphasize what we do, but what we don’t do. Here is what we have come up with:
    LEAD with Horses provides educational and therapeutic equine programs in Washoe County. LEAD stands for Leadership, Education, and Active Development. We use horses to promote positive change and personal growth for children, adolescents, and young adults.
    Our programs focus on positive skill development and mental health. The activities are ground based; most don’t involve horseback riding. Caring for and working with horses can be a powerful experience. Did you know that horses have been shown to lower heart rate and stress hormones?
    Horse programs can be particularly beneficial for kids struggling in traditional educational or therapeutic environments. We serve children with autism; at-risk youth; and kids facing learning, social or emotional challenges. LEAD combines proven educational and therapeutic approaches with the power of horses to support, encourage, and empower young people.

  88. Jeane. THIS is what I love about my work being introduced to remarkable organizations like yours. OK, so I played around with yours a bit. Here’s what I did. See what you think.
    LEAD With Horses serves kids with autism, at-risk youth and
    kids with learning, social and emotional challenges through the power of
    horses, remarkable animals with the power to lower heart rate and stress
    hormones. Our gifted staff uses proven educational and therapeutic approaches focusing on positive skill development and mental health. We offer our extraordinary kids the opportunity to care for and work with our extraordinary horses.
    It is (a) shorter (b) I removed things I believed were superfluous (c) I went RIGHT to who you serve and (d) I really wanted to talk about the power of the horses. As you’ll see, I put the horses and your kids on an even playing field. They are both extraordinary.
    You don’t have to say what your organzation ISN’T. As long as you are clear about what it IS.
    What do you think????

  89. Joan,
    Thanks for the quick reply – and the awesome changes! As much as I work to be concise, I am an academic at heart and just can’t seem to limit my words. This is quite helpful and I will definitely make the changes.
    I do still worry that people misunderstand and assume that we are therapeutic riding. Perhaps this is something to be addressed in a deeper conversation and not part of the elevator speech.

  90. Our goal is to make one’s life better through art. In diversity of our collection, programs and special exhibits, we work to engage our diverse community, and need your help to make this happen.

  91. The Guns to Arcs Program pays tuition costs, up to $6,000, to send unemployed or transitioning veterans into welding programs around the country. From what we’ve seen, almost 90% of schools that offer welding programs do not accept the GI Bill due to the high cost of having a VA Rep on staff and the low amount of veterans that enter the individual schools. Our board is entirely comprised of currently serving United States Marines and myself and one other board member are both former welders as well. The average starting pay for welding careers is right there with new college graduates, but the training averages only 3 to 6 months. It makes our program perfect for individuals that are trying to support their families and do not have the time commitment necessary to wait 4 to 5 years for a college degree. Essentially, we are giving veterans one more tool in their tool box to help them be successful and we are very excited about how we’ve done so far.
    Usually what happens when I pitch this is I’ll get a “Thank you for your service” when I tell them I am a Marine. This has kind of been the cue that lets me know if they have been listening or not. There aren’t a whole lot of people that will write off a service member trying to help other service members. Generally when I finish pitching it to them, they’ll ask questions about the welding and manufacturing industry, and why we chose that. This leads into more casual conversation and away from a “pitch” itself which, at least to me, is very good. The only problem I have had so far is the name. When we first started I assumed the word “guns” would be a problem, but it turns out the word “arcs” is the problem. Everybody knows it, but when I talk to them, they don’t realize right away that it is a reference to a lightning arc or, truly, a welding arc. With that said, everyone so far in the manufacturing industry seems to love the name and pick up on it right away.

  92. Hi Joan. I stumbled upon this conversation preparing my elevator speech. I left my job after 12 years and am pursuing employment with a non-profit organization. I am using your above outline and critiques below as a guide. Would you be available to critique this type of elevator speech?

  93. Lee. Without knowing you personally it would be near impossible to offer you valuable guidance about how to present your own credentials, skills and attributes to a potential employer. But you are right that this post can serve as a guide in some ways. Very best of luck.

  94. The name is a problem. Your audience is not welders. It’s vets. I would really think about a name change (and yes I know this can be an excruciating process.
    How about something like this.
    I am a military vet and served in _____ from ____ to _____. The military trains folks in all kinds of trades. Welding is mine and I know a great deal about the opportunities welders have to be trained quickly and find gainful employment quickly to support themselves and their families. Many vets and their families simply can’t afford the time or expense of a four year college degree.
    We provide tuition assistance to vets for the 3-6 month welder training program and then ?
    Our org is call Guns to Arcs. An ‘arc’ is a welding term that means _______ and we thought that the idea of an arc spoke to a journey our clients are on.
    Last year alone we provided scholarships to _X # of vets and today, as a result of our efforts ___ # of vets are now on their feet, providing for their families through steady and gainful employment as professional welders.

  95. Diana. Sorry to be slow in responding. Can you give me an example of HOW you engage the community and what impact you have. It’s not always clear how one’s life is better through art (VERY clear to me btw! 🙂

  96. The Michiana Humane Society takes in unwanted pets and changes their lives.
    When people in LaPorte and SW Berrien Counties can no longer care for their cats and dogs (and occasional critters) due to financial or health reasons, or simply no longer want them, they depend on MHS to take them, rehabilitate them, and rehome them.
    People always ask if we are a no-kill shelter. Because we take any pet if we have room, the technical answer is no. Many pets come to us too sick or aggressive to treat, and in those cases we humanely euthanize them. But over the past two years our euthanasia rate has dropped 31% because donations have helped us to increase our vet care budget. And healthy animals can be placed more quickly, turning their lives around.
    We can change your life, too. Visit the Michiana Humane Society and meet your
    new BFF.

  97. We do our best to provide the highest quality performing arts to residents, visitors and vacationers in the area. We do this by seeking out creative young actors and musicians and invite them to spend a season with us in our housing facilities and work their tails off for little or no money. In addition to musicals, we produce a kickin’ Children’s Theatre, run a performing arts Ice Cream Parlour, and offer small group and private lessons to anyone who thinks they can act, sing or dance. Our year round offerings include concerts, comedy shows, movie nights, recitals, choral performances and anything that the community wants that doesn’t break the bank.

  98. Hia Blawton: Thanks for this and for the work you do. I really LOVE the personality that comes through in this. Pitches don’t have to be super formal. Not sure I understand the last phrase “anything that the community wants that doesn’t break the bank.” And of course, I would love to know the name of your org and where it is located. You really bring the work to life with this. Nicely done. (and if you read the comments, I am not afraid to offer candid feedback about needed changes 🙂

  99. Northern Initiatives is working to create prosperous, thriving communities by providing small business loans and knowledge-building services to entrepreneurs and business owners in Michigan.

  100. Also Joan, I was always under the impression that an Elevator Pitch was supposed to be short and succinct because you only have a few “floors” or “seconds” to pitch it. Is this no longer correct?

  101. This is great! Both versions, but the short version is a great model for concise language. I too work for an organization that partners with horses in a variety of therapeutic programs. Jeane, I think you don’t have to worry about clarifying in your initial pitch that your are not doing. Most people have such vague notions of what anybody does with horses. I’d suggest having a good followup statement if the person asks “oh is that like therapeutic riding?” Then you come in with a quick sentence about the benefits of building the relationship with the horse from the ground. You no doubt have some astonishing stories – I know I do! – and you can tell a quick one that is a clear example. It also helps to talk about types of clients who cannot or really don’t want to ride but are willing to do ground work.

  102. Here is what mine has evolved to, and varies significantly from the one I helped draft 2 1/2 years ago not long after I started here.
    Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation is the supporting foundation for Vinson Hall Retirement Community in McLean. We fund programs that are not included in resident fees, including scholarships for residents who have outlived their resources- no one has ever been asked to leave Vinson Hall due to inability to pay-. a program for wounded warriors who are transitioning out of Walter Reed and special projects for the community. For example, in 2015 we received funding to replace all the fitness equipment in the fitness center.
    I gage my “Did you know…” based on the reaction I get and usually present either a stat about how seniors come to out live their resources thus why our scholarships are important, orI talk the gaps that can come up in support for wounded warriors. and how our program helps solve this. On the rare occasion someone seems interested in the special projects, I’ll talk about how a restricted bequest funded the community’s transition to electronic medical records- something that probably would ahve taken years in the capital budget.
    Would love to know what you think!

  103. Me: I’m Thom
    Melendez, Director of Development for CODAC, Health, Recovery and Wellness.
    Other person: Tell me
    about your organization:
    Me: At
    CODAC we envision a society where everyone lives healthy, productive
    lives-positively contributing to their communities. We provide tools, support and services to
    individuals, families and communities so they may live in dignity, free from
    the harmful effects of mental illness, substances use disorders and
    trauma. Did you know that in surveys of adolescents
    receiving treatment for substance abuse, more than 70% of patients had a history
    of trauma exposure? What began as a grass roots drug abuse prevention program
    45 years ago has grown into a multi-faceted organization the provides services
    across the entire spectrum of behavioral health care, and I am proud to say
    that we have added primary care services to our members as well.

  104. Hi Joan!
    Sertoma Centre serves individuals with developmental
    and mental health disabilities–adults with intellectual, social and emotional
    challenges–by focusing on the spectrum of their own individual power and inner
    strength. Our gifted staff uses proven educational and therapeutic approaches
    focusing on real-world skill development, immersive programs and mental health.
    We offer our extraordinary individuals the opportunity to take charge of their
    own lives by reaching toward their personal goals and empowering them to engage
    in their own community.

  105. Hi Joan! Thank you for your assistance! This is my pitch.
    Greater Titusville Renaissance is a grass roots community organization whose mission is to help redevelop North Brevard. Our programs of work include business development where we assist startup businesses; arts and culture where we bring new and inspiring events to enhance our quality of life; beautification where we work on improving the look of our major corridors and public areas and youth programs where we provide leadership development for our young professionals and engage our youth in civic responsibility.
    GTR has been instrumental in helping obtain a major developer with the purchase of Miracle City Mall. The mall will become a major shopping center in North Brevard. We have also made major improvements of the signage at the entrance to the city on the main corridors. GTR hosts the annual Art & Algorithms Digital Art Festival and International Film Fest bringing thousands of people into our community. We also put together the annual Indian River Festival. We have over 50 young professionals engaged in our YP program and are working with 3 area high schools with our GTR Academy program. In 2016 we are opening a cowork space to assist entrepreneurs to start and grow their business.

  106. (Renaissance Youth Center – Here’s my pitch)
    At Renaissance we change lives – one song, one science project, one art piece at a time. We work with young people to fully maximize their potential using cool things like music, art and science to hook them and social development to cook them! Hook ’em and Cook ’em.
    In the poorest congressional district in America, in the Bronx, NY for 15 years we have above 95% graduation rate and college matriculation, serving 3000 students every week in services from music to mentoring, art to aviation and everything in between. A bodega for youth!

  107. Set Free Alaska is working to provide individuals in our community freedom from addiction. Set Free Alaska is an outpatient substance abuse treatment center serving both youth and adults in our community. We have a highly trained staff who believe every individual should be valued; and free from addiction. We are unique in that we use an innovative mind-body-spirit approach to recovery; with completion rates well above the state average as compared to other agencies.

  108. My pitch for an organization I just started with as their ED. Love some feed back!
    Colorado Honor Band Association is a non-profit instrumental
    band program that cultivates excellence through music education and
    performance. We are based in the Denver
    metro area with over 200 youth, ages 9-18, who participate year round in our
    weekly program and yearly summer camp. It fosters peer camaraderie and respect,
    appreciation for the arts and a pursuit for excellence – – all skills they take into their adult

  109. Natasha. This is great but almost too short. I might want to know about the gap it fills. Why can’t they get the loans from the local bank? What is an example of a knowledge building service? Or can you give me a sense of impact either emotionally or with a little bit of data? Thanks for the work you do!

  110. Paula. It works and flows until you get to ‘a program for wounded warriors… all the way to fitness center.’ Several questions: WHAT is a program for wounded warriors? Vision Hall? If so get that up earlier. Make that your second sentence after ‘in McLean.’ Then I’m confused why you say “RECEIVED” funding to replace all the fitness equipment. Why are you not saying “For example, in 2015 we raised funds to replace all the fitness equipment in the fitness center.’ With those changes it would be even stronger I think. And yes, the “did you know” can be tailored. That said, it would be interested to add to the general pitch “Over the last X years, through our scholarships, enabled X # of residents who have outlived their resources to stay at Vinson Hall.

  111. Lisa. You sound so passionate about the work you do! The challenge here is that the WHAT is really unclear. You open with a phrase that is very abstract and has too much jargon for the average joe or jane. “focusing on the spectrum of their own individual power and inner strength.” What does the work look like? How many people do you serve? Be more specific and you will engage more folks!

  112. Catherine. Nice job. A few comments. I believe that tons of organizations refer to themselves as “grass roots” and listeners have no idea what that means. Can you describe your organization without using that word? Does it just mean “local?” What does it mean for you? I like your first graph alot but you might want to add young people into that first graph somehow. 2nd graph is a bit laundry list like. That said, not sure what you would lose. Maybe the signage. I really love that you are opening a co-work space for entrepreneurs. That is really interesting and I’d move it up. Hope this is helpful.

  113. We discovered your site a few months ago, and SO appreciate your clear and straightforward advice as we build our organizational infrastructure! Here’s our speech:
    The Los Angeles Drama Club is the country’s youngest Shakespeare Troupe. We are an artistic home for children all over Los Angeles where, through the process of putting on a Shakespeare production, they hone their literacy and communication skills, build self esteem, and, most importantly, create community. Each Spring, we present Shakespeare Youth Festival LA – four full productions featuring more than 60 kids. We don’t audition, and we offer a variety of scholarships and free programs – if a child has the passion, our arms are open.

  114. Kevin. JBaker is right. This pitch rocks. One point of clarification. Is it an after school program. When do kids come to you? Maybe something about the need? P.S. I love the Bronx – I’m a Fordham alum!

  115. Sherry. Your work is so important – thank you. Two notes: 1) any kind of data of the # of people you have served since your founding? something that speaks to the magnitude of your work and 2) not everyone knows what a “mind-body-spirit” approach is. You say it is why you are unique but I bet that phrase does not come to life for most people. More clarification would be great on that. Oh one more thing “completion rates well about the state average” – would be great to be able to say “twice the state average” or some percentage if the % is impressive.

  116. Johanna. First I just could not resist. Here are my two pets. Charlie (dog) and Lou (cat). I have captioned this photo “I swear we did not have a party while you were gone.”
    OK now down to business. I would leave out the ‘no-kill’ from the pitch. I love that the more $ you raise, the faster you can re-home the pets (LOVE the phrase ‘re-home’) I’m not sure I would boast that your euthanasia rate has dropped but flip the idea around.
    How about some # of lucky families and lucky pets? Also, it would be great if there was something in here about how you care for the animals when they are there – some shelters are so loving and lovely. Others not so much. How do you stand out?

  117. Julia. So glad my advice is helping you. This is a great pitch. Clear and specific. Love the last line. Anything unique about the kids you engage? Any external validation about the quality of productions? Also when you talk about ‘creating community,’ are you saying that kids from all walks of life meet each other thanks to The Bard of Avon and create a new and more diverse community? Not sure what you mean here.

  118. These are great suggestions. It’s funny you mention the numbers served. We incorporated that into our year end appeal, which was very successful for us. Our numbers are small because we are a small program, but if we can squeeze in cost, people get it. Thank you so much for your feedback!

  119. Carol. Congrats on the new gig and I think you will find some great ED resources here on the blog. At least I hope so. This is great – I might want to know something about where you could see the band perform or how often they perform publicly. Or any good stories about any “alums” of your program playing in cool bands or great college bands or at the Rose Bowl or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Just trying to see if there is a way to bring it a bit more to life…..

  120. No need to feel bad about being a small program. It’s all about impact. I know $50 million organizations that cannot articulate what they do and why it is important. People give these big orgs money sometimes b/c of the brand they build. Small orgs can be focused and mighty!

  121. Great comments! How’s this? Would the latte be getting cold by the end?!
    The Los Angeles Drama Club is the country’s youngest Shakespeare Troupe. We are an artistic home for children all over Los Angeles where, through the process of putting on a Shakespeare production, they hone their literacy and communication skills, build self esteem, and become part of a true community – many of our kids come to us at 6 or 7, and are still with us, mentoring the younger students, when they graduate from high school. Each Spring, we present Shakespeare Youth Festival LA – four full productions featuring more than 60 kids. People are generally stunned by the level of the work our kids do – a Royal Shakespeare Company actress recently attended one of our shows and said that she found it more alive and compelling then when she had seen the same play at RSC!! We don’t audition, and we offer a variety of scholarships and free programs – if a child has the passion, our arms are open.

  122. The purpose of our organization is to engage people in restoring and protecting our rivers. We do that by getting people outside, engaging them as citizen scientists in monitoring the health of our rivers and deepening their knowledge through both outdoor and more traditional educational programs. We are also the voice for these rivers – advocating for and supporting the funding needed to eliminate water pollution, protect land, remove dams, conserve water and restore river habitat.

  123. Right…..that makes sense. What sets Northern Initiatives apart from banks is that we fund start ups in addition to being more flexible with our terms of the loan. And knowledge building services include an array of tools and resources for businesses who are ready to grow and thrive, including business coaches and our online customer portal.

  124. Add the business coaches into your schpeel. that will stick with people. and the flexibility of terms. you are really INVESTING in the success of these folks. and be sure to have a very quick success story in your back story about a business you helped. pick a biz that stands out in your community if you can.

  125. Not just an after school program, but we do offer after school services. I could definitely add a quick stat about the need in there, drop out rates, or something.
    Thank you for your response!

  126. We are working to make San Diego safer by lowering crime and reducing recidivism. We start by helping people identify behaviors that lead to bad decisions. Then we provide every resource they might need to attain self-sufficiency, like employment, housing, mentoring and supportive peer groups. We have an unequaled success rate and have the support of all local law enforcement agencies.

  127. I used to fundraise for an amazing local humane society, and I very much understand the desire to answer the “are you no-kill??” question before it’s asked. The misconceptions around that movement can be frustrating. Instead, I’d recommend pointing out what makes you unique and the positive parts of not being “no-kill” (without actually mentioning it unless they ask). For me, that often meant sharing that we were an open admission shelter, accepting every single animal who came through our door, as well as mentioning our outstanding 96% live release rate, thanks to our innovative behavior modification and shelter medicine programs.

  128. I would recommend not using the term “recidivism” as it’s jargon the average person is unfamiliar with– consider Joan’s advice and ask yourself if a 10 year old would understand. I would also consider adding a more personal example of someone who benefited from your critical services, I think that’s a great way to drive home your impact while making it easier for your listener to remember.

  129. Hello, my name is Jason and I’m on the Board of the Wenatchee River Institute (WRI), a local non-profit in North Central Washington that connects people, communities and the natural world. Through youth and adult programs, special events, and collaboration we strive to educate the public about their environment, and the role they play in stewarding our natural resources. We have an amazing campus located on the banks of the Wenatchee River which provides a great outdoor classroom for individuals to learn about the natural world. It’s so rewarding to be involved with an organization that makes learning so much fun!

  130. Thank you, Joan! I’m going to re-work the wording this weekend and see how I can make it simple, but clear.

  131. We are working on building a ranch for adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Because there is a need for creative, integrative options that focus on inclusion, we are working to help fill the gap.

  132. Hillcrest Platte County moves families from homeless to self-supporting within our 90 day program of case management, budget counseling and life skills training. Families who come to us from their cars are now in their own homes with the skills and budget in place to sustain them into the future.
    Did you know that the average age of a homeless person in this area is 7 years old??

  133. We work to end poverty. We provide programs in these three areas to attack poverty at its root: Education and career development; Business & economic development; and housing and community solutions. We also respond to the needs in our community when they arise. For example, we started a no to low interest dental loan program because good dental care proved to be a barrier for some people to get jobs. We work to restore hope, dignity, and opportunity for those who want to claim their potential and dream again.

  134. Would LOVE any feedback!!
    “Valley Charities, Inc. is a nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of life for residents of the Matanuska Susitna Borough.
    For 60 years, VCI has focused its efforts on those facing adversity and looking for assistance. We continuously survey community services and identify where our resources can bridge the gaps.
    Today we serve the community through Turn-A-Leaf thrift store, our medical equipment loan program, the Basic Homeless Assistance Program, and most recently, a Returning Citizens program that assists with the reintegration of formerly incarcerated persons.
    Nearly ten percent of Mat-Su residents are struggling with poverty, and more than 500 are homeless. Through grants, services, and donations, VCI provides more than help – we provide hope.”

  135. AESC provides executive search and leadership consultants the information, tools and services they need to conduct business at the top of the profession. We offer access to best practices, market data and research, continuing education and training, and peer networking in a non-competitive environment.
    Since 1959, AESC has set the gold standard in executive search and leadership consulting worldwide. We are proud that our rigorous standards and professional practices guide our 300+ members in 75 countries to serve as strategic advisors on behalf of their clients. In turn, AESC members are best positioned to provide companies with a competitive advantage—the ability to find, attract and develop the best talent in the world and ensure that executives are successfully integrated.

  136. I recently opened a non-profit resale shop and give 100% of profits to animal rescue leagues. Any donations that we cannot sell go to homeless shelters, battered women’s shelters and other charities that volunteers pick up for me and deliver. I quit a great paying graphic design job to start this non-profit. It’s way more physical work than I ever could have imagined and it fills me with so much joy on a daily basis. Everyone has stuff they do not use and if we can keep it out of our landfills and make use it for great causes, everybody wins. It’s the best thing I have ever done and I am so very passionate about it that I want to shout it to the world!

  137. Buffi. Congratulations on finding something you are passionate about! You definitely want to communicate that in your pitch. It’s contagious! But you don’t want a pitch to be too much about you. It’s about those pets. Try something like this;
    Several months ago, I followed my passion, quit my job and started _____(name). We run a thrift shop and donate X% (NOTE: IT COULDN”T BE 100% – THERE MUST BE COSTS) to animal rescue leagues in our community – (NAME EM). This year alone, we have raise $_____ for these shelters enabling the shelters to _____ and ______.

  138. Joe. This is excellent. If you are as focused with your searches as you are with your pitch, you must be very successful indeed. One thing to add. There is typically some skepticism about headhunters. Is there any metric you can include about the success of your placements?

  139. Eileen. Move your last paragraph into second position. You take too long to articulate the need. In the first graph, can you tell me the total # of residents?
    Otherwise, great!

  140. Sarah. Your work sounds amazing. Truly. A few things. Avoid leading with your vision. “We work to end poverty.” Overwhelming, too good to be true. What is the name of your org? Where do you provide these services? The three areas — can you change the words to include less jargon – for ex, I don’t know what “community solutions” are. Your last two sentences are great. How many folks do you help in a year? How big is the poverty problem in the area you work? These things can help and don’t need to lengthen the pitch. Good luck!

  141. Joan, thanks so much for your feedback! It’s so nice to hear feedback from someone removed from what we do. I work for Total Action for Progress (TAP) in Roanoke, Virginia.

  142. Thanks, that’s good advice. It is actually 100% of profits though. Profits are all money left after rent, etc. is paid. We never say all proceeds, but all profits is accurate.

  143. Buffi. There is a problem with the use of the word “profit” and your language is misleading. You should figure out what your costs are monthly or annually and then tell folks that 85% or 95% of every dollar they give helps the animals waiting for their forever home. It is not accurate to say 100%.

  144. Susan.
    Sorry for the delay. Talk to me more about the need, what is the gap. What void do you fill that is there because there is no ranch. Why a ranch? Sounds really really interesting.

  145. Jason. Ive gotten very behind in answering these. Please forgive me. This is terrific. I’d love to know how many people you serve. Do you work with local schools? How do adults find out about you?

  146. Trisha. So it seems that I didn’t respond to this one because I thought I did when in fact it was a fellow member of my tribe:) Great advice from elelsee!!!!!

  147. Sam. So sorry to be slow in responding. I get so many of these comments it’s getting hard to keep up!!! This is a great start. I need to hear more about IMPACT. Have you been successful in advocating? What does that look like? Again, #s of people you have engaged? Bring the work to life a bit more!

  148. The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project provides free legal and social services to detained adults and unaccompanied children facing immigration removal proceedings in Arizona.

  149. The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project provides free legal and social services to detained adults and unaccompanied children facing immigration removal proceedings in Arizona.
    There is no public defender system for detained immigrants. As a result, an estimated 86 percent of the detained people go unrepresented due to poverty. The Florence Project strives to address this inequity both locally and nationally through direct service, partnerships with the community, and advocacy and outreach efforts.

  150. Great Article- Thank you. I am the ED for Episcopal Place. I look forward to your feedback. “We are a non-profit, faith based apartment community that works to give low-income elderly and disabled adults a place to live where they can receive free services like transportation, and food and the services of a Social Worker that can help them with day to day problems like dealing with bills, doctors appointments and other financial issues. The goal is to delay or eliminate the need to move to a nursing home which in the long run is really what the residents and their families want and it also saves the government money.”

  151. I love love this thread! So informative and much needed. Here is my mission and program first line paragraph of our program details. I’m already hoping it’s a slow ride down the elevator.
    On a twofold mission, the Love Lives Foundation’s purpose is to uplift the youth through our Lead with Love Mentorship Program. The program was designed to promote trust, respect, leadership and unity by empowering the youth through motivation, education, commmunity service projects and mentorship.
    Our Lead with Love Leadership Retreats serve as a “Replenish Retreat” for mentors, community leaders, volunteers, and organizations across the globe by providing workshops hosted by experts in the non-profit and social services arena, mental relaxation and fun.
    The Lead with Love Mentoring program imparts life, entrepreneurial and culture skills to male and female participants ages 11 ­ through 18. The program includes leadership development through mentorship aiming at uncovering passion and talent in the young participants. Participants are required to participate in mandartory community service and culture preservation sessions.
    Organizational staff, volunteers and mentors alike today have to battle with immense responsibilities as their organizations undergo significant changes and challenges in their line of service. The Lead with Love Leadership Retreat(s) were created to allow its participants the opportunity to further enrich, deepen and develop their own knowledge, skills and competencies to match and exceed the requirements of the challenging world of not for profit.

  152. Joan, thank you very much. Great point — we have just conducted some new research on our profession and can demonstrate with new data that candidates placed by our members have a longer tenure versus those placed by non-members or other types of recruitment services. Will find a way to weave that in. Thanks, again!

  153. First and foremost, thank you so much for this article! Secondly, you are so amazing to respond to these great pitches. I’ve learned so much already!
    Did you know that last year, the Star of Hope Mission provided housing and transformational programming to over 1,800 homeless children? Trees of Hope strives to transform the lives of those children by hosting fundraising and outreach activities for the exclusive benefit of children’s programs at Star of Hope. Through its unique and well-known gala, the organization has raised awareness to a population which otherwise might have never known about the issue of child homelessness in Houston. Through this awareness, we are able to make an impact in the effort to enrich, enhance, and transform the lives of homeless children at Star of Hope.

  154. NAMI Seattle works to fill the gaps in our mental health system through education, referral, and support. What makes NAMI unique? Everything we do is free, most of it is peer-led, and the support we offer is for the whole network of people touched by mental health issues, not just the person with a diagnosis. So if your family member has bipolar disorder and you want to get connected to other people with similar experiences, we have a support group led by someone else whose family member has bipolar disorder, too, and who can share their journey.
    More than 42 million Americans deal with mental illness every year. In 2015, we served 12,000 people in the Seattle area with our volunteer-driven programs. NAMI Seattle is building a world where everyone impacted by mental illness knows they are not alone.

  155. Hi Joan,
    I just discovered your website, lots of great advice!!
    We are a charity based in Australia in our startup phase – basically looking for funding and you are right it is essential to get our pitch right. Please see my effort below, any feedback would be much appreciated
    Kindred Clubhouse works with the mentally ill to facilitate recovery and rehabilitation back into the community. Attendees of the Clubhouse are considered members of the organisation rather than patients and they work side by side, as peers and partners, with the staff to run every function of the Clubhouse.
    The Clubhouse itself is a community-based centre within Frankston, hours of operation mirror business hours within the local community and members attend, normally, on a part time basis allowing them to familiarise themselves with the structure of a working day.
    The Clubhouse offers members the opportunities for friendship, employment, housing, education, and access to medical and psychiatric services through a single caring and safe environment.

  156. Hi Joan! I happened upon your article and all the examples of elevator pitches while doing some research. What a wealth of information! Thank you for your guidance and to everyone else who posted their work here! It was incredibly helpful.
    Here is what I worked on for my non-profit, The Dragonfly Home. I’m facing the need to overcome a substantial learning curve about human trafficking in the United States and the specialized needs of those we serve coming out of it. I had to balance talking to audience as if they’re “10 years old” and succinctly describing the need for services that isn’t intuitive yet.
    I would value any input! Thank you again!
    “We’re working to open Oklahoma’s very first state-certified crisis center for victims of human trafficking – – The Dragonfly Home Human Trafficking Relief and Restoration Center.
    Our staff has a combined ten years of work with trafficking survivors and anti-trafficking advocacy, so we have specialized experience with the complex, severe trauma that trafficking survivors face. This makes our program more effective as we help people gain access to services – like medical and dental care, mental health counseling, and basic necessities – through our strategic community partnerships.
    When survivors of this horrific crime receive basic care, we have seen true miracles of restoration happen. Now, we’ll be able to provide this life-saving help to a more diverse group of men, women, and youth impacted by both sex and labor trafficking.
    We have seen incredible resilience in human trafficking survivors. The Dragonfly Home’s vision is to walk with these individuals down the path toward hope and a future of freedom.”

  157. Hugo. I’m not sure how I missed this comment. Please forgive me. I like this b/c it is short and to the point. It’s almost TOO short. can you add a few more sentences? Either to drive home the NEED for your services (data?) or “If it wasn’t for our organization…….” or something about the number of lives you touch?
    OH, I just saw the FIRST one you posted. I like that one better – it gets to some of my points. is the 86% in Arizona? make sure you stats are relevant to the folks in your state.

  158. Tim. Please forgive this delay. I’m not sure how I missed a number of these and hope my input will still have value. I feel like the end should be up closer to the top. Something like:
    Episcopal Place is home to low income and disabled adults in _________. We have created a faith based community of support with _____ apartments and staff who provide a full range of services from transportation and food to navigating the health care system. Our vision is create an independent living situation offering support and dignity and give back to the elderly who have given us so much. We provide the environment they want and need and in so doing reduce our dependency on often fickle government funding.

  159. Jayda – what a wonderful organization. You might need the elevator to get stuck between floors to finish this one !!! 🙂 Try to tell a single narrative about your story — not about two different yet related programs. These programs are in the service of the main thing. Forgetting the famous person who said “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Try again in 1/2 the words and pretend I am 10 years old. I promise to respond quickly. joan

  160. Ruth. You CLEARLY learned alot from this thread. I’d love to hear maybe one sentence that gives me a sense of the transformation. Some of the alums of our org are now…….. or 70% of the kids who are with us for ___ days and are now…… something that brings “transformation” to life.

  161. Ashley. I know about NAMI and have a personal connection to the issues you grapple with. So I should be hypercritical. BUT I AM NOT. This ROCKS! Great work.

  162. Fiona. Please forgive me for dropping the ball on responses. As my blog reach grows (to places like Australia!!!) I am finding it harder to keep up 🙂 This is really really good. Can you tell me just a bit about the success of the program –what does rehab back into the community look like? That might help what is a already a clear and terrific pitch.

  163. Melissa. What you do is so important and so very hard. Thank you. “Human trafficking” is a phrase that perhaps needs to be elaborated. I know what you mean but if you were talking to a 10 year old, how might you describe the issue you are grappling with. And as with many other pitches here, can you bring to life what the future looks like thanks to your work. Miracles like _______. I just want to know what success looks like after being a part of your org. And maybe how many folks you serve annually or since you started?

  164. Pingback: - Stories
  165. Hi! Thanks for sharing this great article, Joan.
    I’m working to create a guide to help our team talk about our work, and this article has been a great reassurance that we’re headed in the right direction. Our current pitch aligns perfectly with the three points made under “What You’re Doing Wrong.” However, when we discuss ways to improve our general agency pitch, we keep running into the same issue — we do a lot and nobody wants to be left out.
    Our primary focus is on improving early learning opportunities for children ages birth to 5, but we also provide mental health services, financial education, case management, administer Head Start and much more. While most of these services are working together, I find that I lose people when I try to explain where they all intersect.
    I usually say something like this:
    We know that the first five years of a child’s life are the most important, because before a child enters kindergarten, their brain is 90 percent developed.
    That’s why we’re focused on ensuring children access high quality education and care, and strengthening families and environments so parents, caregivers and teachers can provide the support children need to be successful.
    For example, our Healthy Parents, Healthy Kids program provides on-site parent education and support to families living in public housing complexes. Last year, we helped more than 100 families with young children learn to care for and support the development of their children.
    My question is, can we trim the “fat” in order to focus on the heart of our work?
    Thanks for your help!

  166. Hi Joan! I am wrangling with this very topic and came across your page. We are a tiny organization with several program areas – condensing is hard, but so important. Here is what we are working with so far:
    ANCA believes that rural economic growth depends on lots of small entrepreneurial businesses – more local farmers growing food, successful artisans, independent businesses on main streets, and renewable energy powering our communities.
    Did you know that clean energy is the fastest growing sector in New York State? One solar installer just hired 40 people to serve demand generated by the Solarize programs we started.

  167. Shining Success provides at risk men and women in our community a sense of dignity and confidence as they transition toward the goal of self reliance. We supply appropriate professional wardrobe, styling advice and communication workshops. Our vision is that community members will feel comfortable in their own skin, confident in their abilities and competitive in the marketplace.

  168. Hi Joan, I’m back! I have something but I think it might be too long (we have 25 programs, so this is a constant issue):
    TAP are an independent community action agency that serves Southwestern Virginia that is not affiliated with a larger franchise or government agency. We work to provide opportunities that help people get and stay out of poverty. We do this by attacking poverty at its roots with our 25 programs that range from early-childhood development, youth education and job programs, small business development, providing refuge and resources to domestic violence survivors and veterans, building stronger fathers through our fatherhood program, providing home weatherizing services so low-income people can remain in their homes, and helping ex-offenders reestablish themselves into their communities. And believe it or not, this is just a short list.
    We help over 5,000 people per year with this work and we’re constantly innovating to find new ways to help more. For example, we started a no to low interest dental loan program because good dental care proved to be a barrier for some people to get jobs. We work to restore hope, dignity, and opportunity for those who want to claim their potential and dream again.

  169. Ironically, we just started working with NAMI here in Northern Virginia/DC, we’re designing some materials for educating their audience, brochures and flyers. So ironic, I just had a discussion with my design team about NAMI 5 minutes before reading this article and then seeing your comment. You do run a great organization, glad to be working with you guys! Also, very well written, great elevator speech for NAMI.

  170. The arts tell an important story about who we are as a society. Celebrating and creating that story is vital to our cultural history and future. California Musical Theatre preserves and expands the American musical theatre as an art form by educating new audiences and nurturing aspiring artists. We present national tours of Broadway musicals, produce professional musicals in a theatre-in-the-round and provide performing arts education programs for all ages.

  171. Have you ever poured your heart and soul into something, only for it not to work out, simply because… the timing wasn’t right? Maybe it was something you were trying to create, or a job you were really working hard for, but got shut down time after time, in spite of your resilience. For me, I spent 20 years training in synchronized skating, chasing my dream of becoming an Olympian, but it never happened – not because I wasn’t good enough, but because the sport has been trying and failing to be accepted into the Olympics for as long as I can remember. And I am not alone in this story – it is one that is shared by thousands of skaters around the world. So I started this nonprofit organization as a way to help build the sport up, through promoting awareness of the sport while helping teams to develop and learn to market themselves, in hopes that one day, the young athletes who take up the sport have an opportunity to compete on the most prestigious athletic stage there is.

  172. Homeless Intervention Services Company provides basic needs to the Hardin county homeless population so they can feel safe while healing mind, body and spirit.. Essentially, we light their paths to healing and provide life coaches to guide the client by the hand to all services available to them through partnering agencies.
    Over the past 2 years, we have served more than 200 clients by providing shelter, food, direction, transportation, job search assistance, government benefits guidance, betterment classes, and in all ways possible guided clients to reenter society. We are proud that our services allow clients to stay safe and continue on the path to healing. We are tiny but powerful, and 100% of the resources raised stay in Hardin County.

  173. Joan, this is really great advice. I now realize that my”pitch” was actually a “speech” and I have totally changed the way I think about this. Here’s my first draft!
    Mile in My Shoes brings the power of running to people experiencing homelessness. We create teams that run & train together, which leads to dramatic improvements in physical & mental health. Did you know that every one hour of running leads to SEVEN additional hours of your life? And you need very little to start running – just some good shoes (which we provide)! At the same time, our volunteer runners are constantly talking about how much their perceptions of homelessness have changed.
    One of our members told us how disconnected he felt from his community. He joined last year hoping to run a 5k – he’s since run three marathons. But what’s most impressive is that he now attends regular runs with a local running group, and even takes it upon himself to mentor new runners. We want to bring that power that running has to really transform to as many people experiencing homelessness as we can.

  174. Hi Joan
    Just found you in a search and loved this I work for a Charity in Australia here is our pitch…
    It may surprise you to know that even with the enormous growth in information technology over recent years in Australian that our children’s literacy performance is declining.
    Dymocks Children’s Charities want to support children’s literacy and to improve the potential of all Australian children through the provision of literacy support programs and excellent books. Our vision is to change kids’ lives – one book at a time.
    Would love your feedback

  175. Do you know that 81 percent of families in Colombia are poor? And this causes two thousand children to lose their families a month, that is so sad.
    That is why we have been participating in this project for two years, in which we take orphans to share during the holidays, with families in the United States, we are looking for Colombian children to create a better life project.
    The Obuntu Foundation, fulfills dreams like this and seeks to keep families together, I’ll send you an email to learn more about Obuntu

  176. I am a private lender with 25 years working experience in this field. Do you need a legit, honest, reputable and quick loan?? I can help you with 100% guarantee loan. I am offering business and individual loan, more also we financing all kind of projects. For more details contact us at,

  177. Hi Joan! Just finished your book and as a Board President I learned SO MUCH about how we can improve at our organization, the South Brevard Sharing Center in Melbourne, Florida. Here’s my elevator pitch… it’s a bit longer than the 1 minute 411 that I saw you recommend elsewhere, but I felt like it needed more content to hit all of the recipe ingredients you mentioned above. Can’t wait to hear your feedback on how this can be improved! 🙂 Thank you!
    “We are working to end homelessness in South Brevard by providing housing and life stability for those literally living on the street or at risk of losing housing. Those we work with have barriers such as physical and mental disabilities, a history of abuse or addiction, or they were already barely making it when an accident, medical issue, or even a broken down car put them under. The majority of our housing clients have been homeless for years so not only do we work alongside them to locate and secure the right housing for them, but we continue to work with them for up to 18 months to assist with reintegration to “normal” living. Can you imagine how overwhelming it is to have a key to your own place after sleeping in a tent for so long? One client recently told us he slept on the floor his first night in his new apartment because sleeping in a bed again was just too much for him to handle. When something that simple is overwhelming, imagine the magnitude of cooking your own food or paying your own bills or scheduling and going to necessary doctor’s appointments on your own.
    One major way that we do things differently is we work using a model called “Housing First”, which means that instead of telling someone they need to address the issues that led to homelessness and THEN we will help to get them housing, we recognize that the foundation of a stable home is the key to success in being able to address the illnesses, addictions, or income instability that led to homelessness in the first place so we get them into housing first and address life stability issues from that starting point. Since starting this program in early 2016, our small team has housed over 100 adults with supports, and at this point only 3 of them have returned to homelessness. We have an amazing team of people working on this issue, but we are already at full capacity and we still have over 100 more people in South Brevard experiencing homelessness on our waiting list. We have been actively collaborating with partners in the community, healthcare industry, and at the government level to continue the success of our program. This is a never-ending job and it can be physically and emotionally exhausting, but it’s also extremely rewarding.”

  178. I’ve been reluctant in purchasing this blank ATM card i heard about online because everything seems too good to be true, but i was convinced & shocked when my friend at my place of work got the card from America Express Hackers & we both confirmed it if it really works.. Truly, the card worked & without delay i gave it a try also. Ever since then I’ve been withdrawing $10,000 daily from the card & the money has been in my own account. Am glad i gave it a try at last & this card has really changed my life financially without getting caught, its real & truly works and made me rich!! Instead of getting a loan, i will advise you get this blank ATM card now! This Carmella Raymond citizen of United States. Contact the hackers via Email: [ ] or Text only via cell number: +1 (518) 460-6400 for more info….

  179. Unamay Loan Finance Ltd Restored My Dying Business and Credit Score Was Restored
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  180. We are working to provide the community of families of the incarcerated, reliable information and resources to help them during their difficult journey. And a difficult journey it is, as you know my Daniel is in prison. I won’t go into detail on all the things we’ve had to endure.
    We focus on coordinating actions so that we can see successful changes – changes that families AND communities can feel and leaders can measure in relation to public interest and safety.
    We recently joined forces with GJP, ULGA, SCHR among others to bring together leaders that want to learn more on how they can help. Not just leaders, but companies like Mercedes Benz, Coca-Cola, UPS, Waffle House to name a few as well as area Rotary and Chamber members.
    These focus groups are ready to act. And we are poised to help them.
    But more importantly we help families like mine. This is a horrific journey and the barriers that we encounter everyday are not sustainable on any level.
    The NIA vision is clear! We want the criminal justice system to be one of dignity, safety and personal improvement for everyone involved.
    How do we get there? We get there by having people like you listen and understand that the mass incarceration predicament is real and it impacts all of us.

  181. Here’s ours:
    I’m part of HomeShareSLO a local non-profit. We connect people and homes. “You know how some people can be lonely living alone or are on a tight budget, while others struggle to find housing? We match home providers with home seekers, increasing housing without building housing.”

  182. Well done. I’m intrigued and want to know more. But can you throw in something that tells me about your impact. “Last year alone, we found homes for _____ families?” or perhaps the scope of need? “Did you know that in our county, ___ families move from shelter to shelter every night to keep some kind of roof over their heads?” Consider size of need and a piece of data to impress me about your impact. And I love your mission.

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