Published: 9 April 2019

So, what do you do? A five-step plan to writing your elevator pitch

If you can’t describe what your charity does succinctly, accurately, and passionately, your brand awareness is likely to be pretty low. And if your staff and supporters don’t like, or agree with, how you talk about what your organisation does, they won’t use the language.

Short, medium and long descriptions of what your charity does are fundamental communications resources that will help articulate your brand.

Using them consistently will help people understand your organisation and purpose and why you’re important. If they don’t get what you do and why you do it, your target audiences won’t donate, use your services or tell others about you.

As I mentioned in a previous CharityComms article, it’s surprising how many charities don’t have this copy. And, that without it, you can guarantee your communications will all convey different messages to similar audiences.

Below are key steps to coming up with inspiring “boilerplate copy” that will help you build lasting relationships and motivate audiences to get involved.

1. Research how you talk about yourselves and what people think of you

Gather key communications to find out how you describe what you do. Look at everything from the “About us” copy on your website to internal communications. What language do you use for different audiences? Are there key phrases that reoccur and how do they sound?

If certain fundraising campaigns, or similar, did well, consider how they described what you do and the tone they used. If you track your awareness, check how you are doing alongside other charities in your sector. How do competitors with higher brand awareness speak about themselves?

2. Work out who and what you need to ask to fully understand your organisation

You might, for example, need to ask the people who run your services what they do day to day. Or, to get to grips with the impact you have on people’s lives, you could ask someone who benefited from your information advice line how they felt before they picked up the phone. Think of questions that a potential supporter, donor or someone who could benefit from your charity could have if they knew nothing about your organisation.

3. Talk to staff, volunteers and the people you support

Set up interviews to find out how people involved in your charity talk and feel about you. Limit your questions to around 10 so the interviews don’t last more than 30 minutes. Do interviews with key people on Skype, the phone or face to face and ask up to five questions by email to others.

It’s really important to talk to people you support to get their input even if this might be more difficult to organise. If you’re a smaller charity, or resources are tight, you could set up a SurveyMonkey and email it to a few supporters who are happy to help.

4. Check how what you’ve discovered fits with your brand and aims

Analyse notes from your interviews and research to see what words and phrases come up often. Even if your work varies a lot, there might be an overarching theme that connects it all. For example, you might always put the people you work with at the heart of services. Or, your expertise in a niche area might set you apart from competitors.

Think about how you can reflect this in your organisation’s strategic aims and vision. Try to connect the last line of your new descriptor with your vision. For example: “We believe a world without poverty is possible. We can’t make that happen without you.”

5. Get feedback on what you come up with

Spend time crafting your descriptions of what you do. Share your short (around 30 words), medium (around 50 words) and long (around 100 words) copy with everyone who has been involved in the process. Once you’ve amended the first draft, based on their comments, share new versions with a smaller group of internal people.

If you can, test the descriptions you come up with in emails or fundraising campaigns to see which inspire more click throughs, donations etc. Then include the final versions in your tone of voice guide, or similar, and make sure staff and volunteers know to use this copy consistently to build brand awareness.

Image: Michael Morse from Pexels


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Trina Wallace, copywriter and editor, freelance

Trina Wallace is a copywriter, editor and communications consultant with around 14 years’ experience in the charity sector. She has worked with over 70 charities, including Cancer Research UK, Rethink Mental Illness, Alzheimer’s Society and Oxfam. Trina specialises in writing audience-focused communications that inspire people to take action.