How to Craft Your One Minute Message

Zach Hochstadt

We’re happy to share with you Zach Hochstadt's post on organizational messaging which originally appeared in Mission Minded’s blog. We’re going to make available more of Mission Minded’s great thinking on branding and messaging for nonprofits in upcoming CompassPoints of View blog posts. Keep an eye out!

One of the hardest messages for any organization to create is the one that introduces your work to someone new.

The One Minute Message, which is sometimes called an elevator pitch or elevator speech, needs to provide enough information about your organization without burying your audience in too many details about your programs. It needs to begin explaining why your organization exists in just a few words, and most importantly, it needs to leave them wanting more.

It’s a tall order for a short sentence or two, and that’s why creating effective One Minute Messages is a big part of our Minute Message Model training.  In the training, we walk our participants through a simple model that hits all the right points—and to keep things interesting, we do it in the form of a Mad Lib:

(Name of Organization) believes (Deeply Held Value). Every day, we (Verb) (Object) for (Constituents), because (Problem Statement).

This model starts from a place of emotion and conviction in order to make a real connection with your audience. It immediately grounds that emotion in the concrete work an organization does to help real people, then closes by explaining how that work addresses a problem that exists in our society or the world.

How does it actually work in practice? We recently had the chance to conduct a Minute Message Model session for the board of Community Initiatives, an organization that acts as a fiscal sponsor for all sorts of causes and issues. Essentially, they provide nonprofit status and back-end support with accounting functions, legal questions and governance to clients so that they don’t have to build that nonprofit organization infrastructure for themselves.

It’s a challenging organization to create messages for, because so much of their work is technical, and jargon can quickly overwhelm even the most attentive audience. We were pleasantly surprised, then, at the fantastic 1-minute messages their board members came up with during the training.

It turns out that people who want to start a project to protect wildlife or serve disadvantaged youth are passionate about the environment or social justice—not nonprofit tax law.  What Community Initiatives provides is a way for those people to focus on what they do best: changing the world.

After the training, we took the 1-minute messages created by the board, and did some editing to create our recommendation for a final message they could all use. This is what we came up with:

Community Initiatives believes that people starting projects that serve the public good shouldn’t also have to become experts on taxes, accounting and human resources. Every day we provide a legal framework and quality professional support to nonprofit initiatives to allow them to flourish. Because when leaders can focus on their vision, instead of being distracted by back-office administrative tasks, they have the greatest chance of improving our community.

If this sounds like the kind of messaging help your organization could use, sign up for our upcoming Minute Message Model webinar on March 7. You'll learn how to organize and prioritize your messages so they're never muddled and always focused on what your audiences need to hear, whether you have one minute, two minutes, five, or ten to share your message. Join us!


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