Last week, a few of my Blue Garnet colleagues and I had the privilege of attending the Southern California Grantmakers (SCG) and Los Angeles Social Venture Partners (SVP) Fast Pitch event, the nightcap to the annual SCG conference. The event allowed selected organizations to give a quick, 3-minute “pitch” to potential funders, and ultimately win prize money in the competition. True to its mission, SVP packed the house to connect individuals, funders, and foundations with these budding organizations; all members of the ecosystem were represented. Paul Shoemaker, the Executive Connector at SVP and MC for the evening, kicked off the event in his discourse.
Shoemaker’s opening speech directly addressed the underlying intent of the evening: that the pitches would not be consumed merely for entertainment purposes, but would rather prompt those in attendance to action. His opening analogy framed the issue perfectly, comparing the presenters to sparks and the audience to either “concrete” or “rocket fuel”. Ten finalists poured their hearts out on stage to connect with the audience and judging panels, hoping to cast a spark that would land not on cold concrete, but on combustible rocket fuel. In turn, the challenge to the attendee was to ignite from the sparks of passion emitted by the presenters. And indeed, what an incredible night of passionate speaking it was!
But was this appeal to the heart enough to prompt action? And more broadly in the nonprofit sector, to what degree would the appeal to the mind enhance the ability of an organization to prompt people to action? It was clear from each story that an external event had served as the impetus to start the organization; it was also evident there was no shortage of passion within the organizations. However, what propelled a pitch from convicting to convincing was not just the petition to the heart, but also exquisitely balancing a connection to the heart AND the mind.
The most effective speakers not only identified the social issue their organization addresses, but also tangibly explained what they are doing to overcome said issue, and the degree of results they have achieved so far. This manifested itself after Gabriella Charter School’s proclamation of their 875 API score, and New Earth’s announcement they had reduced their recidivism rate to 15%… each metric elicited an audible gasp of delight from the crowd. Whereas all organizations were able to communicate their mission, these two organizations were able to solidify the confidence of the audience and judges through their tangible impact, simultaneously engaging the heart and convincing the mind. As a firm that preaches measurable impact, this was truly inspiring to watch, and garnered our votes for the awards!
When the dust had settled, Harry Grammer of New Earth received the first place Judges Award for his gripping, flawless pitch laden with impact metrics. Liza Bercovici of Gabriella Charter School won the Annenberg Audience Award by winning the spectators with a clear plan of how increased fund money would scale the school’s impact.
Congratulations to all 19 organizations that took the 8 week challenge to refine their pitch; to the finalists and winning organizations; and especially SCG and SVP for another successful Fast Pitch event! This was a rewarding evening for all members of the nonprofit ecosystem. We look forward to seeing where your sparks landed in the near future…