Pitch Perfect: 7 Questions to Ask Your Elevator Pitch

By , Communications and Advocacy Associate

Devex recently published an article by Jenny Lei Ravelo on key points to keep in mind when pitching your product, platform or program. Here’s what juries and expert panels say they typically look for:

1. How connected is your solution to the problem? 

“Judges want to understand the explicit connection between a company’s innovation and the challenges it seeks to address,” writes Ravelo. In one example. Ravelo writes about a STEM program in the Philippines that builds educational kits for children. Judges wanted to learn more about how those kits would be available to low-income families with children who could most greatly benefit from a higher paying STEM job in the future. One jury member asks, “Have you thought about a strategy to address the less privileged students and households? How do we bridge that gap?” It’s important to focus on a solution to the problem you’ve set out to solve.

2. Are you targeting the right problem? 

Ravelo writes that “juries seek impact,” which means that selecting the right challenge and aligning that with the right goal is vital. “Funders often want to ensure they are tackling the general problem in the most efficient, specific way,” she writes.

For VEGA programs, all address economic growth as the overarching problem. However, depending on social, political and physical considerations in a given country, VEGA Members propose different approaches. Does the problem of economic growth in this area revolve around financial institutions and the lack of access to loans? Or should the focus be on capacity building of organizations and mentoring of entrepreneurs? Deciding the “right” problem is essential to creating sustainable impact.

3. How sustainable is your business model? 

“Almost all innovations need capital up front, but investors also want to see a clear path to sustainability, when the business or intervention will function on its own,” Ravelo writes.

That idea proved to be the main challenge for a pitch from the Palawan Conservation Corps (PCC). VEGA Member Australian Volunteers International (AVI) has sent volunteer experts to work with the organization to improve its sustainability, that like many NGOs, largely relies on grant funding. AVI volunteer Rachel Young is currently working with PCC to develop a project that would serve as a sustainable source of income to fund the NGO’s other programs.

4. Is your solution scalable? 

For many VEGA programs, scalability isn’t a question that comes up because of the specific scope of work and timeline in a given region. However, along with the sustainability question, can the solutions you’ve implemented be scaled from community to community or throughout the country once the program has concluded? Ravelo writes that “innovations that work in a local context may not always apply to a broader challenge. Juries emphasized the need to think about the scale from the get go.”

5. What is the evidence of the impact? 

“Even the best ideas need to be tested, measured and evaluated for how they will work in implementation. Juries often seek direct data or research,” says Ravelo.

It is important to provide supporting documentation and evidence that your suggested solution will in fact generate the results you are anticipating. To assist with measuring and analyzing this data, VEGA has developed the Volunteer Value Reporting System that helps quantify some of the qualitative impact of volunteer experts that work in the field sharing expertise and skills.

6. Have you tested your solution? 

VEGA Members have a strong history of implementing economic growth programs in the developing world and bring that experience to VEGA programs. And when VEGA Members partner or bring sub-awardees into the fold from among our membership, they share that experience with others. So make a case for your project by highlighting previous successes and proven case studies that point to sustainability and impact.

7. Does your solution align with the funder’s mission? 

Ravelo writes that “funders are looking for more than just successful business ideas; they are looking for partners in their broader mission.” It is important to keep in mind how your funder operates and if you are meeting their overarching organizational objective, this can become even more essential when dealing with multiple stakeholders and private enterprises.

As VEGA continues to bring together public and private partners for greater impact, ensuring that a proposal aligns with the mission statements of all stakeholders can be tricky. As the convener, VEGA helps bring balance to the relationship and the goals of a project, while establishing a collaborative mission that captures the needs of all stakeholders.