You’ve used it at conferences, happy hours, lunches, and in line to get coffee. You’ve shared it with friends, your grandmother, and on a date. It’s likely you’ve even expressed it in the place for which it is named. So what is “it?” The infamous elevator pitch, of course.
It’s a thirty-second promo about what your organization does, who they do it for, and why it matters. It’s how you quickly explain “what you do” to someone and the point is to leave them wanting more. Companies spend years perfecting their elevator pitch as they evolve and optimize their product or service to bring on partners, woo investors, and appeal to customers.
However, elevator pitches aren’t limited to companies in the private sector. Nonprofits need a stellar elevator pitch, too — and sometimes it can be challenging to nail down all the good you’re doing, how you do it, the impact you’re making, and why someone should care in a few sentences (and when it comes to the web, in even less words).
Effectively weaving your elevator pitch throughout your website is crucial to ensure visitors:
- Immediately “get it”
- Are inspired throughout their user journey
- Are driven to get involved
There are three key places to integrate your elevator pitch: Tagline, Mission & Vision, What You Do & How You Do It.
The tagline is one of the first things people should see when they land on your homepage. Often, it’s branded with a logo, or at least shown prominently on its own. A tagline should evoke a strong connotation with your work and what/whom you’re impacting. Vague phrasing, flowery adjectives, jargon, and broad demographics don’t get you very far. But concise language, strong verbs, and a clear call-out to those you’re serving can do the trick.
Here are some taglines we like:
- Miriam’s Kitchen: Ending chronic homelessness
- Fuse Corps: Experienced leadership for civic innovation.*
- Donor’s Choose: Support a classroom. Build a future.
2. Mission & Vision
These two are usually found in an “About Us” section and many organizations put the mission right on their homepage. Mission and vision can be easy to confuse, but are different from one another. A mission details what your nonprofit is doing now and a vision illustrates what you want to accomplish in the future. For instance, if you support girls in tech, your mission should be one sentence that explains your current programming, i.e. “We partner with over 100 D.C. public schools to run coding classes for teen girls.” Your vision may be something like, “By 2030, every high school girl in D.C. will have taken at least one online tech class.” Both your mission and your vision should be a staple of your elevator pitch.
Examples we like:
- Malaria No More’s mission: At Malaria No More, we envision a world where no child dies from a mosquito bite. We use our innovative partnerships and focused advocacy to elevate malaria on the global health agenda, create political will and mobilize the global resources required to achieve malaria eradication within a generation.*
- Code for America’s vision: Our goal: government services that are simple, effective, and easy to use, for everyone.
- National Parks Foundation mission: The National Park Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, enriches America’s national parks and programs through private support, safeguarding our heritage and inspiring generations of national park enthusiasts.
3. What You Do & How You Do It
You have a mission and a vision and now you need to take it a bit further. These two important website pages (which should be called out via the navigation bar as main menu items) get more into the details of your programming. They provide a platform to explain, in simple terms, the inner workings of your organization. They give the visitor a clear understanding of What You Do & How You Do It and should spark their interest in taking the next step. Another way to connect with the visitor is to feature impressive statistics that clearly demonstrate the specific impact you’re making.
If you’re on a really long elevator ride, you can add even more information — but if someone is browsing your website, keep the copy on these pages short and succinct — utilize no more than 2-3 paragraphs to explain your work.
We like these approaches:
- City Year tells a narrative about their education work in their “What We Do” section, outlining the problem, their approach, their impact, and research.
- New American Leaders Project details how they help bring first- and second-generation American leaders from the community to the capitol through a training and fellowship program, a newly elected officials academy, and by building a national network of established elected officials from New American communities.*
- The Case Foundation states they create and fund innovative and collaborative solutions for urgent social challenges. Their work is also animated by the belief that more fearless approaches are needed to address these challenges.*
In addition to these key places, your elevator pitch can be sprinkled throughout your site to give context to stories, media, and/or pieces of content. No need to repeat your tagline or mission on every page, but the essence of who you are, what you do, why you do it, and the impact you’re making should be clear no matter where or what someone is reading on your website, or other online channels. You have thirty-seconds (if that). Use them wisely to effectively connect with your audience and, most importantly, compel them to take action.
*Creative Science Labs client