Maile Lono-Batura heads up the Northwest Biosolids Management Association. They do wonderful work…that’s, um, sensitive to talk about. She was kind enough to share her and her board’s adventures in pitching poo in this guest post. Enjoy!
Pitching our mission isn’t glamorous but it is one that I truly believe in. The work of my organization, the Northwest Biosolids Management Association (a.k.a. Northwest Biosolids), conjures up images of things people don’t talk about in polite conversation. And so pitching our work to unsuspecting people produces some hesitancy from even the most enthusiastic members of our team. We knew we needed help. That’s why we turned to Erica.
In 2012, we invited Erica to our retreat to guide us through identifying who we are, what we stand for, who we serve and the voice we use to convey what we believe in. What we discovered during these exercises enlightened our journey in creating our 2013 – 2016 Strategic Plan. By formally identifying our organization’s personality and stakeholders, we had this newfound lens or tool to truly focus the plan on what matters most.
During this year’s retreat, we asked Erica to coach us on preparing our organizational pitch which is, as Erica describes it, a “door opener”—it explains who you are and what you do to the people that you hope will support your mission. When I describe what it is that I do, it often comes up during meal functions so I’ve had to discern gentle ways in which to reveal this so that appetites are sustained and I think I’ve done okay, but it took some serious misses over the years that mostly were cases of TMI (too much information). Because the fact is: I deal in poo.
Our retreat group created a variety of pitches. No two pitches sounded anything alike and it took a little cage rattling and norm shifting to get to our final pitch. Our team got to try our pitch in mock discussions to get the hang of it and it was like a light went on for many of us.
I had a chance to share NW Biosolids new pitch during a seminar I participated in recently and the reaction to it was priceless. The seminar was Creating an Investment Policy for your Non-profit Organization (something our Budget Committee will be formulating for the Board). Each participating organization went around the room, introducing themselves and the work they do, most representatives were either Finance Managers or Executive Directors. Everyone had their pocket pitch and when it got to me, I delivered our spiffy new one –
“I work for NW Biosolids, an organization that finds the best ways to recycle what you send down the pipe.”
The room erupted in laughter and everyone immediately knew what I was talking about. Afterwards, people approached me wanting to know more about how we recycle it and how they never knew about it until now. I couldn’t wait to share the story with our team to encourage them to give it a shot and see what reactions and questions you get.
I hope you’re reading this and thinking, “If she can pitch poo, we can definitely figure out our pitch!” Because let me tell you: having a pitch you love is priceless.