Can you describe what your non-profit does, in ONE sentence?

Posted in operations plan / marketing

Can you describe what your non-profit does, in ONE sentence?

Non-profits are complex organizations. There are usually many programs, many services, different clients, and a complicated set of strategic priorities and outcomes driving the work. If you had to condense all of it into one simple sentence, could you do it?

Not a marketing ploy. There are practical applications.

The purpose of having one simple sentence is not just a marketing ploy – there are practical applications. When a non-profit leader is talking to a potential sponsor, that one sentence needs to be able to grab enough interest to lead to a next-level conversation. When a supporter is opening their mail during holiday fundraising campaigns, that one sentence needs to resonate enough to get the donation. When the board nominations committee is trying to attract new board members, that one sentence needs to be enough to appeal to applicants.  

Learn to write an elevator pitch.

Let's take a minute and write your non-profit’s… elevator pitch. What is that? An elevator pitch is the informal name for a short (15-20 second) statement that explains what your non-profit does. An elevator pitch uses very few words but does so in a way that piques the interest of the listener. Called an elevator pitch because it should be short enough that you can say it to someone during a quick elevator ride.

Sound hard? It isn’t. Make two columns. Do this quickly! Don’t over think.

In the first column, list your clients. Look at the list and summarize into 1-2 types.

In the second column, list the happy successes your clients experience after working with your non-profit. Look at the list and summarize into 1-2 happy outcomes using normal everyday words.

Here’s an example… Green Valley Animal Care helps [animals surrendered by their owners] to find [new forever homes].

Here’s one more example… The Milkweed Collective [teaches city gardeners] to build a [butterfly sanctuary in their own back yards].

Use this template.

Here is a template for the finished elevator pitch.

[Insert non-profit name] works with [insert 1-2 client types] to help them [insert 1-2 happy outcomes in normal everyday words].

Practice out loud.

The first try might not result in a very tidy sentence, and that’s OK. There are two ways to finesse the sentence into a more polished version.

First, try re-writing it a few times. Try out a dozen or so different versions on a note pad, and begin to pinpoint the works that work and the words that need to change.

Next, practice the finished sentence out loud. Hearing it spoken will very quickly help work out the words that are tongue twisters and those that flow more easily. 

The end goal is to create one sentence so that the person who is listening to you, will say “that sounds interesting tell me more.”

 Long-term benefits.

A practiced and polished elevator pitch will have long-term benefits. Because it can be memorized easily, it can be dropped effortlessly into conversations with potential sponsors and funders. It can become a consistent marketing tag line, increasing awareness and creating consistency from campaign to campaign. Used enough, an elevator pitch will eventually be used by a non-profit’s membership and other stakeholders, building more recognition and helping to connect to a broad audience.

Test drive the finished sentence.

With the finished elevator pitch in hand, take it out for a test drive. Start using it when people ask what you do. Try it out on marketing material. Share it with the staff team and have them give it a try. Give it to board members who always struggle to explain what a non-profit does all day! Don’t forget to ask the membership to try it out as well.

The more the elevator pitch is used, the more it can be tweaked ever so slightly, here and there, into a powerhouse sentence that rolls off the tongue with ease.

When a non-profit needs a short but powerful way to explain what they do, an elevator pitch can be an easy solution anyone can use. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my ideas. My mission is to take the mystery out of running a small non-profit. If you know someone who needs to read this, why not grab the link, and share it with them. Let’s work together to make sure as many people as possible know about the great work out non-profits are doing.


Hi, I'm Christie Saas, former board member, current Executive Director, and non-profit volunteer. I remember well, those early years when I lacked the training, the confidence, and the work-life balance to focus on becoming the best non-profit leader I could be.

Fast-forward past many bumps in the road, lessons learned, and you’ll find me still in the trenches, but a little wiser, a little calmer, and a whole lot happier. I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

I created to give you tools, tips, and templates to remove the mystery of learning to run a small non-profit. If you’re a brand-new non-profit leader, or a little more seasoned, someone who’s looking to make a meaningful contribution and still have time for a full life away from the job, you’re in the right place.

© Christie Saas 2022 All Rights Reserved

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