It happens at this time of year: You find yourself at a cocktail party (or Thanksgiving dinner, or gathering of new friends) and someone asks, “so what does your organization do?” You launch into a detailed overview of what your hard-working NGO aims to accomplish, filtered through the lens of your own piece of the work. Sometimes your audience of one lights up and asks the follow-up question you had hoped for. Often, sadly, they do not.
This is not your fault (unless you are a leader of the organization). Rather, you have just stumbled up against a question that too many organizations don’t undertake to answer: What’s your elevator speech? Said another way, why does your organization matter in the world — and to the person to whom you are speaking?
Several years ago our colleague David Williamson wrote a series of pieces about the elements of nonprofit marketing for Georgetown University’s Center for Nonprofit & Public Leadership. The first essay in the collection was about developing an elevator speech. There is a reason it was first in the series: This marketing exercise and resultant tool helps everyone connected with an organization, whether you are the assistant answering “what do you do?” or the board chair answering “is this organization a good one to invest in?”