Take your elevator speech to the top floor

publication date: Jun 21, 2011
We've heard a lot about elevator speeches - what blogger Jeff Brooks calls "that 30-second rundown of what you or your company does that you would give if you talked to strangers on elevators."

Jeff cites the experience of another fundraising expert, Tom Ahern, who often starts workshops by inviting participants to stand up and deliver their elevator speeches.

The magical, disappearing donor

Brooks and Ahern are both stunned by the results. "Ninety-nine times out of 100, the person delivering her elevator speech never mentions the donor. The donor plays no role at all in the elevator speech," Brooks reports.

But Brooks takes it further. That statement isn't just true of charities' elevator speeches, he asserts, but of their mission statements, annual reports and even some of their fundraising communications. Welcome to the world of the invisible donor.

Instead, charities write about what they do, how they do it, and how effective they are at it, he says. And they slather on their own internal and impenetrable jargon all the way. (For some great tips and healthy encouragement on avoiding jargon, see Fraser Green's Your own voice - keeping it real.)

Bringing donors back to your story

If you've already found your Bill Gates, these donor-free descriptions are fine. But if you need donors, then you have to announce it. "Why should anyone care how cool you are," Brooks wonders, "unless they are part of the coolness?"

So if you're a homeless services agency telling the world that "We get the homeless off the streets - permanently," Brooks wants you to take the leap and put donors at the centre of your effectiveness description: "We make it possible for generous people in our community to help the homeless get off the streets - permanently."

A minute's thought about donors and their importance should be all the impetus you need to start revising your elevator speech - and everything else you say or publish.

Read the full articles from Tom Ahern and Jeff Brooks.

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