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How to Say It in 20 Seconds or Less


There is always more to learn about how to research and find the best funders for your organization. But what happens when it's time to talk to that potential funder? What do you say? How do you get their attention and fuel their curiosity? How can you talk about your nonprofit without overwhelming them with details? Funders and donors are deluged with requests so you need to stand out…and try to say it in 20 seconds or less! To do this, consider developing a value proposition, which can also serve as your “elevator speech”.

 

The term “elevator speech” refers to the brief time you have to tell someone about your organization or program, grab their attention and be memorable. This is essentially the time it takes to ride an elevator—about 30 seconds (but we are going to aim for 20 seconds or less). In business, a value proposition is defined as “a positioning statement that explains what benefit you provide for who and how you do it uniquely well. It describes your target buyer, the problem you solve, and why you're distinctly better than the alternatives.” (Skok, M. Forbes; June 14, 2013).
 
Nonprofit organizations face many of the same challenges as businesses, and can also benefit from a value proposition. This is especially important in grant development because nonprofits are essentially competing for funding. You need to stand out from the competition—that is, from the other organizations that are providing similar services to yours and possibly vying for the same grant dollars. The value proposition differentiates your nonprofit and helps you communicate clearly and succinctly to your potential funders and donors.
 
To create a value proposition, fill in the blanks: We […or name of your organization] work with [insert your target audience] to [insert what you do] as needed to achieve [insert your key outcome/impact].
 
There are many online templates available that can help you create a sound value proposition. The following is one that I recommend, as it directly relates to grant development. While it was created for business, it can also be adapted for the nonprofit sector. The items in parentheses parallel the requirements typically found in a grant proposal:
1. Highlight the enormity of the problem you are tackling. (Needs Statement)
2. Tell the audience up front what your company sells. (Organization Description)
3. Distill the differentiation down to one, easy-to-comprehend sentence. (Unique)
4. Establish credibility by sharing the pedigree of the entrepreneurs, customers, or the investors. (Past Accomplishments).
Note: If your nonprofit or program is new, you can establish credibility by drawing on the success or impact of similar programs in other locations, and/or highlight your great leadership/team.
 
Sample:
“One person dies of melanoma every 62 minutes. We offer a dermatoscope app for iPhone that enables people to easily diagnose their skin, leveraging patented pattern recognition technology trusted by the World Health Organization.” (7 Proven Templates for Writing Value Propositions That Work”, Lingo Labs, November 29, 2011).
 
Value propositions are extremely helpful in differentiating ourselves, as well as the nonprofits we work for. NOW is a good time to craft your value proposition to create that strong first impression! It will go a long way toward connecting meaningfully with others, including the funders with whom you hope to partner.
 
What are your tips for communicating succinctly with funders?
 
Margit Brazda Poirier, GPC, M.S. is Owner and CEO of Grants4Good LLC, a grant consulting company that specializes in online training and grant strategy.   www.grants4good.com
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GPC Competency: 08. Funder Relationships