Grassroot Collective Logo



ABOUT            POLICIES            CONTACT

Support local development


Crafting the Perfect Elevator Pitch for Your Nonprofit.

Starting your own non-profit often comes with a lot of lofty ideals. You dream of a world where you are your own boss, where you make the schedule and the rules. You picture getting things done your way, the right way, and helping others in the process. The truth is that running your own non-profit is a ton of work and, particularly in the beginning, you will often find yourself beholden to the whims and desires of your donors and partners.


It is for this reason that the ability to clearly articulate your vision is so essential for fledgling non-profit organizations. The more concrete your vision, and strategy to realize that vision, are, the more you will be able to find donors who are like-minded and believe in your ability to achieve your objectives in the way you see fit. The key to producing these types of relationships with your donors is being clear and consistent in your messaging from the very beginning, starting from your elevator pitch.


What is An Elevator Pitch?


An elevator pitch is a short presentation that you give to potential donors or partners to let them know what you are doing, how you are doing it, why they should be involved, and what that involvement would look like. These presentations are called elevator pitches because they should last about as long as a ride in an elevator would last. The presentations often consist of a PowerPoint or slide presentation, known as a pitch deck, accompanied by an oral presentation.  Think of an elevator pitch as your opportunity to make a good first impression with people of potential importance to your organization. While this may seem like a daunting task, it is one that will become easier with time and experience. Remember, there is no formula for creating a perfect elevator pitch. Different things will work for different organization and donors. You need to find out what works for your organization. That said, there are a few rules of thumb that can help guide you and your organization on the path to creating an elevator pitch which will be effective in achieving your goals. Play around with your pitch using the following three principles until you get something that works for you.


1. Don’t Beat Around The Bush


Elevator pitches are designed to be short. Think in the range of 20-30 seconds ideally, and definitely not longer than 1 minute. Use this time wisely. Your elevator pitch is not the time to get bogged down in the details of your future projects or the inner workings of your organization. Focus on answering the big questions first. Donors will want to know who your organization is and what your main objective is. Be very clear about this and don’t muddy the waters with minute details.


For example, let’s pretend you are preparing a pitch for a group of potential donors surrounding an initiative to protect humpback whales. If you present a pitch stating that your organization consists of a marine biologist, an investor with a background in carbon trading, and a professor of oceanography who are interested in working on a variety of conservation issues and hope to build a very large organization which will save turtles, dolphins, whales, and all varieties of endangered sea creatures, you will waste time, confuse your potential donors, and likely not get what you are asking for. Remember that your elevator pitch is just your first impression. There is no reason to lay all of your cards on the table. A much better approach would be to simply state that you are a group of scientists and concerned citizens seeking donor support for an initiative to protect humpback whales. The latter statement conveys what you are trying to do in a much more simple and direct way.


Try to limit your elevator pitch to consisting solely of who you organization is in the most simple of terms, the immediate project that you are proposing to this specific group of donors, what you need from them to make that happen, and why they should give it to you. If you have done this well, your donors will likely respond to your pitch with a host of questions regarding the details and this is exactly what you want to happen. When donors are chasing you down to hear the details of the fantastic project you proposed, you know your pitch hit the target.


2. Make It Personal


While you definitely do not want to get too wordy with your elevator pitch, it is essential that you personality, and that of your organization, come across during your presentation. Including your organization’s logo and color scheme on the presentation not only make it look professional, they give potential donors a little insight into your organization’s identity. The same goes for using photos of the actual people and places involved in organization. Even in the short amount of time you have to make your elevator pitch, you want to make donors feel like they have gotten to know you and your organization. I worked with one non-profit where the President’s catch phrase was “Dial it in.” He would say it all the time and it became something he was known for. We started to incorporate this slogan into our pitch decks and it helped to  It’s not just language that you can use to accomplish this. This pitch deck from does a great job of personalizing their organization by opening with a short, personal story with photos about why the organization was started. By using an impactful photo captioned with simple text and just a few short sentences spoken in the meeting, this organization is able to convey who they are to potential donors without wasting time or boring them with irrelevant details.

A place to learn about grassroots development in action.

This article is part of our free 9-part course, Creating a Marketing Strategy for Community Nonprofits.

Photo: © A True Gift Of Love, Haiku Deck


3. Nonverbal Communication


When time is limited, the importance of nonverbal communication becomes paramount. You could spend an hour describing a project, hoping that donors will be able to picture what you are seeing in your head, or you could simply turn on a 10 second video clip that you are confident will give them th
e right impression. Whenever possible, replace words with images, video, or body language. Rather than using the word exciting to describe the project that you are presenting, simply ACT excited about the opportunity during your presentation. Donors will pick up on that excitement and infer that the opportunity is exciting without you having to explicitly tell them.



Some people will tell you that an elevator pitch is supposed to be a PowerPoint presentation consisting of X number of slides and lasting X number of seconds. The truth is, there is no exact recipe for what will make your pitch successful. The best way to figure out what works for your organization is through practice, so get to it. Start with a simple, personal, visually expressive deck and keep tweaking it until you get the results you want.

About the Author

Katlyn Murray is a media consultant specialising in work for humanitarian aid and development organisations. She has worked on disaster response projects with USAID, IOM, Micronesian Conservation Coalition, and Young Pioneer Disaster Response, among others. Katlyn wants to tell stories that will change the world.

Move on to:

Cause Marketing

Discover how to collaborate with corporate partners to boost your exposure