Mastering the Elevator Pitch

September 1, 2016

An individual approaches you at a networking event and casually asks, “What does your organization do?”

Can you answer that question at a moment’s notice, in a relatable, colloquial way?

If you answer this question the right way, it can prove to be invaluable to your nonprofit. A well-prepared, well-delivered, 30-second pitch means more interest in and awareness of your cause. The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary of your business in the span of an elevator ride. In a world that is all about personal connections, the elevator pitch is an instrumental marketing opportunity to engage with others on an individual level and to reinforce your brand while telling a compelling story.

Here are some dos and don’ts for developing the perfect mini speech.


  • Make assumptions: Don’t assume that your listener is familiar with your organization or its mission. Pretend this person knows nothing, avoid using jargon or highly technical information, and present your pitch in a basic, conversational manner.
  • Lead with your vision: “Our organization is working to end world poverty.” If you start too broadly, people may not take you seriously or they may peg you as an idealist who lacks realistic goals.
  • Ramble: People have short attention spans. Their focus will wander if they are not fully engaged, so be concise, straightforward, and clear.


  • Highlight your organization’s unique differences: What makes it stand out from other organizations attempting to solve similar problems?
  • Practice, Practice, Practice: The elevator pitch is largely about instilling confidence in the listener that you are passionate and capable of accomplishing your mission statement. Go over it several times so that you can deliver it with conviction.
  • Personalize your pitch: Prepare different renditions of your pitch for different audiences—potential donors, volunteers, youth, adults, etc. Additionally, if you know you are going to an event hoping to speak to a specific donor, have a speech specially tailored for that person.

Use your elevator pitch to clearly explain what your nonprofit hopes to achieve, why your cause is relevant and worthy, and how the donor’s involvement is uniquely vital. It is an invitation to be a part of your organization—not a one-time solicitation—so present yourself as an opportunity: one that matters.

Mastering the Elevator Pitch