elevator pitch

July 9, 2015 | Accelerator

How to write (and test!) an elevator pitch as a tech nonprofit

We see a lot of tech nonprofit pitches. A lot. In all those pitches we’ve seen five common storylines:

Feature storyline: These are all the amazing things this product does!

Technology storyline: Here’s the tech problem we solved.

Timeline storyline:  I started the company in [fill In the blank: my dorm room, garage, or parent’s basement] ..

Impact storyline: Here’s the number of [fill in the stat: people we’ve served, states we’ve reached, metric tons we’ve offset]

Human storyline: “er…I’m…uh…my…”

Pause. Let’s dive into this.

Yesterday at the Accelerator, Emmy-award winning news producer Jenny Halse taught us about the building blocks of a HUMAN elevator pitch (that zinger or hook that will get the press, donor, volunteer salivating, etcetera). The most important thing: don’t pitch, tell a story (thank you Teju Ravilochan, co-founder of the Unreasonable Institute).

By way of example, let’s say it’s the mid-2000s and I’m the brilliant human who came up with Khan Academy (words my own, not Sal Khan’s). Remember, this is the beginning of Khan Academy, before they were bringing free education to nearly 12 million people a month in a wide-array of subjects.

Pose a question

What if there were on-demand videos for every math subject?

Add in humanity

What if every student in America had access to basic math skills?

Say how you’re going to fix it

Khan Academy solves the problem of bringing foundational skills that are essential for student success.

Briefly say what it is

I’m creating a free, YouTube-based video series teaching fundamental math skills.

Drop in some evidence

Just 43% of 4th graders have basic math proficiency.

Don’t forget your passion – people connect to people; why is this meaningful to you?

Khan Academy started because my niece couldn’t do geometry. Why? Because she lacked some basic skills. Quite frankly, this was crazy to me. Irksome even. And it seemed intolerable that the same was likely true for poor students across the U.S.

Sum it up in a one-liner

A video platform that helps anyone, anywhere learn math—for free

(you might also try we are the [uber] of [food redistribution] or Like [Khan Academy] for [Hustles])

FYI, ten years later Khan Academy’s one-liner is “A free world-class education for anyone, anywhere.”

If you want more of the branding for engineers type of content, check out this post on GitHub Gist (thanks Jess!)

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