July 30, 2014


Developing an elevator speech

Stacy Jones

Stacy Jones

Whether at a formal networking event or having a chance encounter with a stranger, a nonprofit's staff and board should be armed with a short description of the organization and its impact. 

Remember, you only have a few moments to make a first impression. You should introduce yourself and the organization briefly in an engaging and conversational way.

Often referred to as an elevator speech, this short well-crafted statement should be concise but detailed enough to inform a potential supporter about the organization in the amount of time it takes to ride in an elevator. 

Everyone in a nonprofit, from volunteers to staff and board members, should know and be able to use this statement to help others understand the organization and engage them in your work.

Your elevator speech should not be the organization's mission statement. Mission statements do not translate well and people often don't find a mission statement compelling.

An elevator speech should be short; three to four short sentences, about 50-100 words and take less then 30 seconds to deliver. A good elevator speech will grab your listener's attention by saying a lot in few words and leave your audience wanting to know more.

Keep in mind the following when writing your elevator speech:

Practice makes perfect. You should write, edit and write again. Practice your speech out loud to see how sounds, how long it is and gage if it's understandable and interesting.  The speech should sound like its conversational and "off the cuff."

Skip the alphabet soup. Keep it simple. Avoid using jargon, acronyms and terminology that others outside your organization or field wouldn't understand.

What you do and why you do it. Briefly talk about what you do, how you do it and why it's important for your community.  Start with a simple impact statement answering each of the following questions with short one to two-word answers.  What do you do?  Why do you do it? How do you do it?  Build off your impact statement.   

Show the impact and tell a story. Don't just give a statistic of how many people you serve.  Bring a face to that number.  Talk about your work in a real way, letting your audience know the impact and the importance for the people you serve.

Call to action. At the end, call your listeners to action.  Tell your listeners about an upcoming event, how to volunteer or where to donate. Send your listener to your website for more information.

Stacy Jones is a nonprofit marketing consultant based in Troy, N.Y., and a Shoestring Creative Group Network Affiliate. Stacy can be reached at affiliates@shoestringgroup.com or 1-888-835-6236.


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