Wake Forest University’s business school held its Seventh Annual Elevator Competition this weekend. Teams of business school students from around the country got two minutes on an elevator ride to pitch their million-dollar idea to a venture capitalist. The winners get a cash prize, free professional services, and a real meeting with a potential investor.

Wouldn’t it be great if the nonprofit sector had a similar contest? The winners could get meetings with program officers at some of the nation’s biggest foundations.

Philanthropy Journal offers the next best thing, I suppose. On their website and in their e-newsletters, the editors allow nonprofits to tell their story in 50 words or less. It’s a great opportunity and a valuable exercise for all nonprofits to try.

Here are a few tips for writing a 50-word blurb, or creating your elevator message. Remember, you only have 3-4 short sentences in total.

Don’t just repeat your mission statement. Mission statements are often “pie in the sky” or full of buzzwords that don’t actually say what you do.

Tell us what you do and who you do it for. Donors want to know how their support makes a difference on the ground.

Share a quantitative result. How many people did you help last year? How many acres did you save? Whatever it is you measure, throw in a stat about your accomplishments.

Provide some perspective. Put your work in context, in one sentence. Why is what you do so important? What’s the scale of the problem?

Spell out the opportunity. Complete this sentence: “With some additional resources, we could . . . “

Published On: April 10, 2006|Categories: Fundraising|