The Elevator Speech: A fundraiser’s secret weapon

 Have you ever heard of an elevator speech? It’s one of the most basic and effective devices in a fundraiser’s toolkit. The idea behind it’s name is that it is a quick ‘speech’ that one can give in the time it takes an elevator to go from the top floor to the first floor or vice versa. In this article you will find out what, why, where, when, to whom, and how to prepare that “elevator speech.” 

What exactly is an “elevator speech”? The idea behind an elevator speech is this – you run into people all day long. At work, at the store, out in social situations, and yes, in elevators. The idea of an “elevator speech” is to have a prepared presentation that grabs attention and says a lot in a few words. What are you going to be saying? By telling your core message, you will be marketing yourself and your fundraising efforts in a way that will draw people into your cause rather than pushing people away.

Why prepare an “elevator speech”? As fundraisers, we all need to be willing and able to use casual conversations as a springboard for donations. It’s not likely every person will be able to hold a hugely successful fundraising event, but anyone can have an elevator speech to use when the opportunity arises. People can’t donate unless you ask, and you can’t ask for donations until they know what you’re doing and why.

Where and when do I use this “elevator speech”? These come in handy all the time. How often do you find yourself among friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, etc who inevitably ask how you are doing and what is new with you? Most of the time you mutter “Oh, nothing, same old, same old…” This is where the elevator speech comes in. If you have an answer like “Well, I’m training for my first half marathon, and I’m making my miles matter by raising funds to give away wheelchairs in developing countries.” Right away, that leads into an open, casual, and low-pressure conversation about what you are doing with your race and your fundraising. 

Sounds great! So what does an elevator speech look like? It’s actually very similar to what you’ve already written for your personal website biography. It’s a quick and simple overview of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how they can help. 

Things to remember:

Make your speech quick, easy to understand, and memorable.
Convey that you genuinely care about what your doing and are dedicated to making a difference
Have your personal RunCards on hand and ready to hand out after your speech
Practice – say it a few times to yourself, and try it out on other people. It will soon feel natural.
An elevator speech should be short; three to four short sentences, about 50-100 words and take less then 30 seconds to deliver. A good elevator speech will grab your listener’s attention by saying a lot in few words and leave your audience wanting to know more. 
The speech should sound like its conversational and “off the cuff.”

“I’m in the middle of training for my first half marathon. I decided to do it not only because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but also because it is allowing me to help make a difference by raising funds for a nonprofit called Free Wheelchair Mission. What they do is provide wheelchairs to disabled people in developing countries, and each wheelchair only costs $63.94 each to manufacture, ship, and deliver! Pretty cool huh? I’ve set my personal goal at $500 – that would be enough to give a chair to 7 people! Here’s my fundraising website if you wanted to learn more. Any donations would be a huge help! (This is where you would hand them a RunCard… one of your handy “Fundraiser Business Cards”, which has information on how to get to your website. Order yours now.)

Happy fundraising!