The lore of the elevator pitch comes from the early days of Hollywood when one would hope to trap an executive in an elevator and ‘pitch.’ The Elevator Pitch is an enduring shorthand that represents the simplest description of what you do.
You need brevity and simplicity… but simplicity alone is not your goal! Your goal is to get the other person to say, “I get it!” or “I want to learn more!”
The Elevator Pitch is dead. What we aim for is Elevator Engagement.
We achieve our goal more effectively and efficiently if we focus on the two-way (engagement) and not the one-way (pitch). Instead of spewing for 20-60 seconds (even if succinct), think about one great question you can ask the other person to get them ENGAGED in a conversation.
At our boot camps we do an exercise to illustrate that you can actually communicate WAYYYY more in 60 seconds by simply asking one or two questions than you can by talking (however concise you may be). It works because:
In asking a question, you start with the other person’s construct (or gestalt!).
We become fully engaged when we are talking. So, the simple act of getting the other person to talk changes the level of engagement. (This is Dale Carnegie 101!)
If you start with a question, you immediately learn what is pertinent and non-pertinent. You can use a short amount of time on relevant information.
Finally, we can position our work in their words. LISTENING is one of the most powerful selling skills in the world.
Earlier this year we were helping an organization make a neuroscience pitch to a foundation. The executive director was asked to appear before the foundation board and ‘make a pitch’. We had to reprogram her default, one-way pitch, to instead starting with a question to the panel of eight. She simply asked, “Has anyone ever had experience with a stroke, or a family member that’s had a stroke?” The board chair raised his hand and then spent two minutes talking about the importance of neuroscience research. Others jumped in. They were engaged — fully.
The executive director was able to simply build on the conversation. Though she had eight slides prepared, she found she only needed to use three of them (in response to the conversation). The board said it was one of the best pitches they had ever received – that’s because she didn’t pitch; she engaged.
She was awarded the grant!
Nota bene: There are many circles (usually tied to funding communities, e.g., silicon valley and nyc / financial) where a ‘pitch-deck’ is standard affair. Don’t let the ‘pitch deck’ put you in ‘pitch mode.’ As in the neuroscience story, you should focus on engagement. And, of course, we’re partial to the one-page pitch deck!
This is an excerpt from the forthcoming For Impact Guidebook about Leadership Circles.
Every organization should have some form of Leadership Circle. In its simplest form, this is ONE baseline-major-gift level of support, positioned as the cornerstone of your annual fund. The Leadership Circle is not just another giving level – It’s a funding program and a strategic pillar of your funding model that qualifies prospects, simplifies stewardship, provides flexible funding and annuity! You’ve heard of Occam’s Razor; this is ‘Occam’s Ask’. It’s set at ONE level between $1K and $10K – messaged around your mission and vision in a way that represents your simplest and strongest sell.
HOW TO MESSAGE: (Examples)
STORY: “We would like to invite you to be part of the Leadership Circle – a group of 100 families, individuals and/or businesses that are extremely committed to the mission of the YWCA. Membership requires a minimum $10,000 investment in the fund, renewable annually. Each year, these funds will be used to make the biggest impact in the areas of after school programming, innovation and scholarships. But, ultimately,The Leadership Circle is about investing in our vision to transform our community.”
COLLECTIVE IMPACT: “This Leadership Circle level is significant because the collective power of its members – providing the core funding support that allows the YWCA to be an efficient organization, responding to the most important needs of women and families in our community. Additionally, this Leadership Circle has the impact of $2M in endowment for each 10 members.”
In working with over 1,000 organizations, I can’t think of a time when an organization didn’t benefit from a Leadership Circle. As a tool, its versatility rivals duct tape.
A FEW WAYS TO USE THE LEADERSHIP CIRCLE:
As a QUALIFIER. The Leadership Circle can be a GREAT ASK on a first visit. The story around the Leadership Circle should be tied to your simplest and strongest sell and if someone commits the $10K then you KNOW they are serious about your impact.
As a component of your overall FUNDING MODEL and CASE. It’s helpful for top funders to see that you’re building a base. This should offset the perception (and reality) that you’re going back to the well with the same funders again and again. It’s really helpful to be able to show (in your plan) that at the same time you are asking for LEADERSHIP SUPPORT, you are also building giving-based-relationships through the Leadership Circle.
As a MOMENTUM BUILDER. If you’re working on leadership support for a major project the Leadership Circle can be a powerful momentum builder. It’s one thing to go to your board and announce you THINK you will have some leaders on board. It’s another to back that up with the cash flow and commitments from 20 new memberships in your Leadership Circle.
As an ANNUITY and ENDOWMENT EQUIVALENT. The membership base of support becomes an annuity. For example, 20 families at $10K is $200K per year which is the equivalent of having $4M in endowment!
As a FOCUSED way to TEST and BUILD TALENT. Having a Leadership Circle offers a safety valve for new salespeople. “When you don’t know what else to do, ask for a membership.” This is a clarifying directive. Asking for a membership does not eliminate the potential for a larger gift – if anything it qualifies the relationship (offering objective insight to the sales manager.) If a new major gifts officer fails to close a $1M gift it could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s a prospecting issue. Maybe it’s the story. However, anyone should be able to close Leadership Circle membership. Having developed dozens and dozens of new major gifts officers, I cannot emphasize the importance of this idea. It’s the simplest way to build confidence and funding momentum.
As an engagement strategy that PAYS. ‘Nuff said.
As a STEWARDSHIP CIRCLE. Get rid of all events and focus that energy on just providing stewardship and thanks to your Leadership Circle investors! Here is an idea, make it someone’s job to simply get every member of the Leadership Circle to your organization to SEE the impact (return-on-investment) in a given year. Good things will happen.
As ‘BUDGET RELIEF.’ Everyone wants ‘unrestricted funding’. A better message would be around budget relief. I would encourage you to try and create a funding model in which the Leadership Circle monies are unbudgeted. You can then report back to membership the IMPACT of their COLLECTIVE investment.
As a way to get into a PLANNED GIFT. Participation in the Leadership Circle for a few years offers a rationale to get ask for a planned gift to PROTECT the annual gift. “You’ve been giving $10K every year as a member of the Leadership Circle. Could we ask you to PROTECT that with a gift from your estate?” A $200K planned gift would ‘protect’ the $10K. Bonus: This can also be part of a TRIPLE ASK.
Fundraising on a Napkin summarizes 30 years of fundraising achievement into simple, bold and actionable ideas that any organization can use – Non Profit, For Profit, Social Entrepreneur or NGO.
Whether you’re looking for strategic clarity, ‘sustainable funding,’ a jumpstart in major giving or just no-fluff advice that works – Fundraising on a Napkin delivers on all fronts. Over 3.5 hours, we will share stories ‘from the field’ and the successful and innovative ideas that have transformed thousands of organizations and raised over $2B, including:
How to get strategic clarity
How to simplify your message and communicate the vision
How to find and engage with great leaders, prospects and champions
How to build a high performing leadership team
How to build an effective culture around funding the vision
How to ask
This high energy, motivating session will give you a road map you can follow to re-design (or design) your organization for impact and income success.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Example-based coaching throughout the day
Lots of interaction so you don’t get bored – this is not one of ‘those’ workshops
Proven frameworks and, to the extent that we’re able with time, one-on-one strategy to help you apply the frameworks
No power point (see no. 2) but lots of visuals
Simplicity. Complexity is not actionable, so we give you the tools that will have the greatest R.O.I. to your organization in the near term (next 100 days) and longer term (next 1000 days.)
Value that goes beyond funding! We’re all entrepreneurs, so while we always want to create value in the form of funding results, there is a huge personal development theme to everything we do.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND
This workshop is for Executive Directors, Board Leaders and Development Professionals – Any and all responsible for shaping and implementing funding strategy.
“Two professors who study the science of complexity—Brenda Zimmerman of York University and Sholom Glouberman of the University of Toronto—have proposed a distinction among three different kinds of problems in the world: the simple, the complicated, and the complex. Simple problems, they note, are ones like baking a cake from a mix. There is a recipe. Sometimes there are a few basic techniques to learn. But once these are mastered, following the recipe brings a high likelihood of success. Complicated problems are ones like sending a rocket to the moon. They can sometimes be broken down into a series of simple problems. But there is no straightforward recipe. Success frequently requires multiple people, often multiple teams, and specialized expertise. Unanticipated difficulties are frequent. Timing and coordination become serious concerns. Complex problems are ones like raising a child. Once you learn how to send a rocket to the moon, you can repeat the process with other rockets and perfect it. One rocket is like another rocket. But not so with raising a child, the professors point out. Every child is unique. Although raising one child may provide experience, it does not guarantee success with the next child. Expertise is valuable but most certainly not sufficient. Indeed, the next child may require an entirely different approach from the previous one. And this brings up another feature of complex problems: their outcomes remain highly uncertain. Yet we all know that it is possible to raise a child well. It’s complex, that’s all.”
I want to relate this framing to teams and dysfunction. Building and leading a team is a complex problem. Like raising a child well – “It’s complex, that’s all.” In our work at The Suddes Group, we’re often building or reconfiguring teams to create greater funding results. One of the things we’ve observed is the relationship between the simple and complex problems. When teams don’t execute on the simple problems, the complex problems are amplified.
Any funding effort is largely a function of simple problems:(more…)
Record what happened on the visit. Someone on your team should be able to pick-up the memo and continue the conversation. In most cases, you can have a sheet of paper out to take notes during the visit. I’m amazed at how often sales people don’t take notes!
Use quotes. THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!! The best message in the world is the one that comes from the prospect’s mouth. Capture words and exact phrases used by the prospect(s); put them in quotes.
Bad: Prospect seemed to like our program.
Good: “Of everything you’re doing, I honestly don’t really care about the after-school program but I think the summer program has mountains of potential.”
Have you ever finished a great visit and had the prospect say, “This is great – Can you get me a proposal?”
If someone asks this we need to simplify on the spot – “Sure thing. Are you an email person?” (Everyone is.) “Would it be okay if I summarized our conversation in bullet point form and shot that back by email?”
Save yourself HOURS by converting ‘proposals’ to ‘bullet points.’
This week’s theme is: Set your goals of ENGAGEMENT.
“PRODUCTIVITY is the act of bringing a company (organization or person) closer to its GOAL. Every ACTION that brings a company (organization or person) closer to its GOAL is PRODUCTIVE. Every ACTION that does NOT bring a company (organization or person) closer to its GOAL is not PRODUCTIVE.
What I’m telling you is…
PRODUCTIVITY IS MEANINGLESS UNLESS YOU KNOW YOUR GOAL.””
Eliyahu Goldratt is an Israeli physicist who has been described by Fortune magazine as a “guru to industry” and by Business Week as a “genius.”
He wrote a self-published, underground best seller entitled The Goal (North River Press, 1984, Revised 1986 and 1992).
This may be one of the best ‘business books’ I’ve ever read. It’s not dense, text-heavy business gobbley gook with charts, tables and Venn diagrams.
It’s actually written as a fiction story. Jonah (the consultant) uses the Socratic method of asking questions of Alex (the manager) to completely turn around a faltering business/ manufacturing plant.
THE GOAL, on one hand, is complex, with terms like: throughput, bottleneck, the theory of constraints and the cloud theory.
At the same time, it is incredibly SIMPLE: KNOW YOUR GOAL!
IF PRODUCTIVITY is a function of understanding your GOAL… being able to define SUCCESS… being able to MEASURE your progress…
Part of our For Impact story has been the invention of THE ENGAGEMENT TOOL. This one-page presentation flow, at altitude, has become an absolutely indispensable part of our client and coaching success.
IF you’re out making VISITS and PRESENTING THE OPPORTUNITY (which all of you
should be) – you need a SIMPLE, POWERFUL, ENGAGING PRESENTATION TOOL!!!
I can almost guarantee you don’t have one now because an Engagement Tool is not a PowerPoint, Campaign Brochure, 3-Ring Binder, or stuff from “National’s Marketing Department.”
An Engagement Tool is used to Present the Opportunity ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’.
As Tim Allen of Tool Time fame says, “The RIGHT TOOL for the RIGHT JOB.”
GREAT PRESENTATION TOOLS can:
Create a terrific FRAMEWORK for the FLOW of the VISIT,
GRAB PEOPLE’S ATTENTION,
FACILITATE important DIALOGUE,
Create ENGAGEMENT and INTERACTION,
COMMUNICATE STATS & STORIES, LOGIC & MAGIC, and much more!
We organize our PRESENTATION TOOLS around “these 3 things”:
A FLOW SHEET
An ALTITUDE MAP
You can download an EXAMPLE of each one of these here.
When Apple launched the first generation iPhone in 2007 it shared a device that offered full-email, rich media, a web browser, and a phone.
Think about what they chose to call this: a phone (that does really cool stuff!)
Often times working with organizations to simplify – there is a fear that the final concept omits ANYTHING. In one of these standard group setting the original iPhone device would’ve been named the iWebMediaMailPhone!
When explaining WHAT you do, choose words people understand. Anchor the concept and THEN tell me how you’re different, cool, etc. When someone says you’re oversimplifying just point to the late genius Steve Jobs.
P.S. I downloaded the new episode of Sherlock last night. I don’t know if I would call that a TV show, or a movie, but I purchased it through iTUNES. Not the iMediaEverythingCloudStore.
Having a funding rationale answers the question: “Where does the money go?” It’s tied directly to packaging your CASE: Your Priorities and Projects and Programs, around your IMPACT.
The CASE should be all about the WHAT and HOW you will USE FUNDS to deliver your impact.
“We’ve put together a plan to scale and innovate in our three core areas – Family Literacy, Read Aloud Programs and Teen Services – that would require $1.3M over the next 1,000 days. Here’s what we would use the funds for – 1000 Families in our Literacy Program, increase 1:1 teen Mentoring by 30%, excellent data and evaluation, and 10 new school relationships.”