How to Create a Foundation Elevator Pitch

So, you’ve found a foundation that you think aligns well with your cause, and you’re ready to give them a call! The inevitable first question that will come up is, “what does your organization do?” This blog post is all about how best to answer that question. It is easily answered when considering these 5 questions:


1.    Can you summarize your nonprofit’s activities in 1-2 sentences?

2.    What population does your nonprofit serve?

3.    How long has your nonprofit been active?

4.    What are two recent accomplishments?

5.    How do you want to grow?


Summarizing Your Nonprofit’s Activities


It can seem daunting to summarize what your nonprofit does, especially when your programs are covering all different facets of a social issue. What I would suggest here is to list out your programs. What do they all have in common? For example, I have a client that has a summer camp, after-school activities and evening activities. At their core though, they are all about teaching life-skills to at-risk and under-served youth. Definitely bring up all 3 forms of these activities, but rather than going down to the details, explain that at a high level, life-skills are being taught.


Population Served


If you have not already started tracking your population served, now is the time to do it. If you are serving individuals from under-served communities, consider what that percentage might be. If you are serving predominantly women or children, this is a part of your demographic served. If they are children of a certain age, or women lacking support systems, this is something to bring up. Even if your percentage is less than half, a third of your population being in an at-risk or under-served demographic is better to point out than saying nothing at all.


Nonprofit Activity


Foundations love to see stability, an active board, and a well-run program. If your nonprofit has been going strong for 10+ years, point this out. If you have recently tried to expand your board out to be more diverse, or recently brought in new fundraising expertise, point that out too. Anything you can think of to show the stability of your nonprofit is helpful when making funding determinations. If your nonprofit is new too, be honest. There’s nothing wrong with being a startup, but bear in mind that you will have a longer road to show overall stability, so it may be worth emphasizing your board’s expertise.


Two recent accomplishments


When you look at your recent accomplishments over the last few years, what stands out? A spike in enrollment in your program? An increase in graduation rate? An increase in client satisfaction? Highlight a couple recent accomplishments so the funder knows you are moving in a positive direction. If you are not currently tracking success indicators, consider coming up with a plan with your board prior to contacting a foundation, it’s likely you have some successes to speak to that you haven’t already thought of, and you can speak to how you’re planning on tracking success in the upcoming year.


How do you want to grow?


How you should grow is often a question of what you would like your next accomplishment to be, and how you want to get to it. Consider the previous question of how you measure your success and work backwards. If your goal is to serve more women in the area that you cover, consider what outreach efforts have been the most successful at spreading the word and bringing more women to your program, and then from there, what you can do to expand your best outreach efforts and what resources you need to get there. It could be beefing up your social media, or recruiting quality mentors. Consider how you want to grow, and how funds could be used to get you there. 


Once you have formulated your answers to each of the above questions, practice your 3-5-minute elevator pitch a few times. This is something that is tried and true, and while it should be adapted to suit each foundation’s interests (especially the last component), it goes a long way toward generating interest in your nonprofit’s work. 

Janet Gonzales