There is something called an “elevator speech” in the nonprofit world which all Executive Directors should have ready to give at a moment’s notice. This speech is designed to grab a potential donor’s attention about the nonprofit’s mission and convince them into supporting the agency in the short time … about the time it takes to ride an elevator. I have struggled developing my “elevator speech” since working at The Family Center. We are a crisis diversion agency focusing on issues stemming from poverty but that doesn’t describe what we really do…. How do you tell someone, in a few sort sentences, the different kinds of help we give to the thousands of people who use our services every year? How do you explain what we mean to those who come through our door, the depth of community support we receive every day and what a blessing it is to the staff and volunteers to be in a position to help those in need on a daily basis. We do so much at The Family Center for so many, but every family’s need is different and so is the help we give them. A few seconds to explain that? Impossible.
School supply giveaways, Santa’s workshop, Thanksgiving meals, education classes, employment services, life skills classes, adult literacy program, jail ministry, glasses, medication, emergency housing, rent and utility assistance, food, clothing… it all means so much to so many in our community. I find it very difficult to put in words what we do during a short trip on an elevator. I can’t quickly explain the impact on an elderly couple as we pay to keep their heat on during the cold months. I find it very hard to quickly explain what it means to hand a single mother, whose husband just left her, a stack of diapers and other baby needs until she can apply for federal benefits and child support. How do you quickly explain what it means to a family who found themselves homeless and living in their car but are now safe and warm in a hotel as we work with them to form a plan for getting off the streets? And what about the bag of groceries we hand to the gentleman living on a fixed income whose food benefits are not enough to get him through the month. How do you quickly explain what having food in his cupboard means to him? Utterly impossible.
But maybe it is impossible to create my “elevator speech” because The Family Center is such an impossible place to begin with. Almost 4,000 families were assisted with food from our pantry in 2013, over $136,081.00 was spent in our Good Samaritan program to pay rent and utilities in 2013. 355 kids received 100% of their school supplies this past year. Over 1000 individuals received a Thanksgiving meal through partnerships with community agencies and 589 children and adults received Christmas presents in 2103. We have 5 educational opportunities and a clothing giveaway each month, we help people find jobs, set goals, read. We do all this with 3 full time staff and 2 part-time… and an army of volunteers.
I will continue to work on my “elevator speech” and the more I find myself in situations where a few sentences are needed to describe all that we do for potential support, I am sure I will find the words that will grab their attention. But until then, let’s hope the elevator we are riding is as long as the Empire State Building’s elevator trip… then I will have plenty of time to talk about all the wonderful and glorious things The Family Center does for Maury County citizens.