A 30-second case, do you have one / need one?

You’re waiting for the elevator and notice a potential donor standing next to you. This is someone who has shown interest in your organization’s cause, and has the potential to make a significant difference. You greet each other. The conversation turns to the cause that connects the two of you. You have a few seconds to chat. What do you say?

When I started to write cases for support over a decade ago, the deliverable was a narrative supported by appendices with facts and figures. Today, I like to include, what I call, the elevator pitch. It is a short, best-foot-forward  distillation of the case. It is designed to maximize the opportunities staff, board members and key volunteers come across in the hustle and bustle of life.

What’s in the elevator pitch? Each one is different. Generally, it delivers a highly positive message. The focus is on the promise, the impact and the role of philanthropy to enable the outcome you are working to achieve. Stay away from facts and figures and steer toward stories. People remember stories, while numbers vanish quickly.

What you say is important and how you say it is equally important.

Delivering the very short version of the case takes some skill. Be sure to make the message personal and authentic. Share and exude your own passion for the work. You don’t want to be the one that does all the talking. That will work against you every time. You want the donor to run toward you – not away from you –  next time she see you.

Try to end the conversation with an invitation to reconnect. Invite her for a tour, to meet for lunch, whatever works, given the kind of work you do and what feels right. Read the signs the donor is sending you, and trust your gut.

The point here is to distill your case for support to its essence – why is it a mission and vision worthy of support. Think ahead of time about what you would say if you had 30 unexpected seconds with someone who could seriously advance your cause. Keep the message in your back pocket (share it with board numbers and staff) and pull it out when you need it. It will come in handy when you talk to the media, when you mingle at a party, and maybe when you step into an elevator.

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