Doing It Right! United Way of the Bay Area (San Francisco, CA)

An elevator speech is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a person, profession, product, service, organization or event and its value proposition – so says Wikipedia.

The key part of this definition is the short summary, which is said to be the length of time of an elevator ride – say 30 seconds to a minute. If there was ever an organization that needed an elevator speech, it would be United Way. Most people would probably need a space shuttle ride, or a little longer, to describe United Way.

Having worked in radio news for nearly a decade, I know the challenge of communicating a complex idea in a mere 30 or 45 seconds. In the larger print we used for radio scripts, a 30-second story was half a page, a mere six to eight sentences. There are many United Ways with elevator speeches that fill a whole page, with six to eight paragraphs, a dozen bullet points, in 8 point type. United Way of the Bay Area (San Francisco, CA) is not one of those United Ways. Their elevator speech is not only as short as an elevator ride; it also simply and quickly defines their United Way.

What are they doing right?

First, this is an elevator speech that someone could actually give in a short elevator ride. To the benefit of the listener, it is short enough that most people would probably listen attentively for the entire elevator speech. Equally important is that it is short enough that the average United Way of the Bay Area board member, staff member, or campaign coordinator could commit it to memory.

Second, it talks about poverty, the issue United Way of the Bay Area is addressing, how they are addressing the issue (food and shelter, help people get jobs, etc.), and the impact of helping 250,000 fellow community members. One of the most common requests from donors, according to our donor research for dozens of local United Ways, is to know what issue United Way addresses, and the results of the donor’s contribution to address that issue. United Way of the Bay Area communicates their issue, actions, and results (and more) in their elevator speech.

Third, their elevator speech asks people to join United Way to end the cycle of poverty – to deliver real results, transform lives, and create positive change for the Bay Area. United Way of the Bay Area offers people an opportunity to give, advocate, and volunteer to address the issue of poverty, so when their elevator speech asks people to join them, the opportunities are varied and plentiful.

United Way of the Bay Area has an elevator speech that packs a double-whammy – an effective message delivered efficiently. If your United Way is considering developing an elevator speech, take 30 seconds and learn from the example offered by United Way of the Bay Area. United Way of the Bay Area, you are Doing It Right!

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P.S. – If you read last week’s blog post, you should check out United Way of the Bay Area’s road map. Their road map shows how they are using the categories of basic needs, education, and jobs to address their issue of focus/main goal.