Fast Pitch Offers a Winning Opportunity for Nonprofits

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

Concise communication is key in today’s world of ever-shorter attention spans. With that in mind, this spring local nonprofits will have the opportunity to participate in a Shark Tank style competition to make three-minute pitches to a panel of judges and a live audience for cash awards, including a $25,000 Judges award and two $10,000 Coaches awards.

Fast Pitch SB, a project of Social Venture Partners Santa Barbara (SVPSB), has already received almost 100 applications from nonprofits looking to receive personal coaching and communications training from experts in the field.

“This is a great way to help an organization have sustainable change,” says Seth Streeter, a member of SVPSB and the “Chief Energy Officer” for Fast Pitch SB.

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

Courtesy Fast Pitch SB

The opportunity is open for any nonprofit with a compelling idea or project they would like to bring to fruition in the community. After all applications are complete, SVPSB will identify 20 nonprofits to enter seven weeks of communications training to develop their presentations.

From these 20, ten finalists will be invited to present their three-minute “fast pitch” to a panel of judges at the Music Academy of the West on May 15. There will be a live audience populated with potential investors, donors and community members, as well as satellite voting and viewing locations set up throughout Santa Barbara. Nonprofit supporters and community members will be able to gather at these locations to watch a live feed during the event and organizers are working to set up a text-to-vote process to give one organization the Audience Choice award.

I went to watch our sister Social Venture Partners group in Los Angeles do this event (which originated there about eight years ago). It was so great that, “I couldn’t control it, ” says Streeter. “I got so excited I just raised my hand and said ‘let’s do it.'”

The process moved quickly after that. When the event takes place in May, “the whole thing will have happened in nine months,” says Streeter.

“People are really excited about this program,” says Joan Young, executive director of SVPSB. “We all know when we’ve heard a bad talk, but it can be difficult to refine that into the right message … especially if you have a complicated message.”

“In talking to nonprofits who have done this in other places, most said they did it for exposure and money but found the leadership and communications training had a tremendous and lasting effect,” says Streeter.

“As for the communications training, SVPSB will identify 40 individuals (two coaches per team) to work with the nonprofits so that the best possible pitch can be developed. This in itself, can also be seen as a valuable prize,” says Jessica Tade, director of communications and marketing of the Santa Barbara Foundation, which is one of the sponsors of the event.

“We’re really hoping to find organizations that need just this little step up,” says Young, explaining, “Social Venture Partners is a unique group of individuals who pool their money and talents and leverage networks to improve the nonprofit sector.”

“Getting involved is a way to give one donation and support 20 organizations,” says Streeter. For more information about getting involved with Fast Pitch SB click here.

—Leslie Dinaberg

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on February 24, 2014.