PMA Consulting, LLC

Non-Profit Strategy: Perfecting the Elevator Speech

Patton McDowell & Associates is committed to helping non-profit organizations – of all sizes and types – bring better focus and discipline to their strategic planning process.  While facilitating two board retreats recently for the Red Cross of the Greater Carolinas and Kids Voting Mecklenburg, one of the first topics we discussed was the ability to comfortably and effectively articulate the organizational “elevator speech”.  While everyone is familiar with the elevator speech cliché, the concept invariably provides good discussion because it is not as easy as they initially expect.  Boards of directors often “live” the organization’s mission but are not as effective in championing their cause in a brief conversation. 

When facilitating a workshop around this topic, we focus on three key questions to assure a “successful elevator ride”.

1.  What exactly are you committed to do and why is it relevant? (Mission)

2.  How will the organization grow and change in the next 3-5 years? (Vision)

3.  What are you going to accomplish in the next 12 months that will move you closer to this vision? (Strategy) 

The challenge AND opportunity for organizations is to take the “three-ring binder” worth of information they typically manage and distill it into powerful statements that each board member can use with confidence.  As Jim Collins notes in his classic Good to Great while discussing the hedgehog concept, “great organizations simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything.” This unity of message is a key step to effective board-member fundraising as well as a confidence builder for these key volunteers as they serve in their ambassadorial role.