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Social Venture Partners will highlight local nonprofits at Friday’s Fast Pitch event

Mark Parker



A previous Fast Pitch event at the Coliseum, with Chair of Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay Irv Cohen. Photo: SVP Tampa Bay

Social Venture Partners (SVP) Tampa Bay is presenting its 2021 Fast Pitch competition Friday night, showcasing eight local nonprofits as they vie for unrestricted grant funding and gain valuable community exposure.

Held at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg and presented in partnership with Community Foundation Tampa Bay, the Fast Pitch event is the culmination of a 16-week program. During those weeks, carefully selected nonprofit organizations receive lessons on operation, marketing, finance, law and storytelling from SVP’s local business partners. The program is designed to help increase the organizations’ revenue streams and reduce dependence on government and private grant funding while boosting its public profile.

“In the beginning, they learn how to write a business plan, develop their business skills, and learn how to better tell their organization’s story,” said SVP Program Manager Keara McGraw.

During the last six weeks of the program, each nonprofit will work closely with a successful area mentor to develop a three-minute pitch. The pitch details how the organization intends to make a difference in the community, along with detailing the social enterprise that helps achieve its mission. McGraw said she enjoys watching the progression as participants hone their pitches.

Aat the beginning of the program, many contestants take 10 to 15 minutes to describe their organizations, she says. By pitch night, that time is down to the allotted three minutes, “and it’s usually 10 times better than it was the first time around.”

“So, being able to effectively convey the message of their organization – how they work, how they operate, and how they’re tackling issues in the community – really benefits them,” said McGraw. “Donors and community members get to see them and hear their story.”

SVP partners will then select first-, second- and third-place finishers. The grand prize is $15,000 in funding, with $10,000 for second place and a $7,500 prize for third.

Six distinguished members of the surrounding community comprise the judge’s panel: Judith Scully, Distinguished Professor of Law at Stetson University; Mark Gesner, Vice President of Community Engagement & Innovation at Saint Leo University; Veatrice Farrell, Executive Director of Deuces Live; Tom Waters, Assistant Director of Startups & Business Development at the University of South Florida; and Michael Flores, Certified Financial Planner at JP Morgan Asset Management.

The Fast Pitch event is open to the general public; it’s also an interactive event, and attendees can vote on their favorite pitches to receive the Audience Choice Award, sponsored by Saint Leo University. The Audience Choice winner will receive $5,000.

Many times, funding from the competition continues long after the program is over. McGraw noted that in years past, organizations have received random checks in the mail from someone in the audience that was impacted by a pitch.

“People have reached out like, ‘Hey, I love your organization, how else can I help,’” she said.

McGraw said that SVP encourages continued collaboration with the participants, and still remains close with some of the nonprofits from the very first competition in 2018.

“We hope that they stay with us,” she said. “Some of them kind of go off and do their own thing, but they are welcome to stay and work with SVP – and a lot of times they do.”

The 2021 SVP Tampa Bay Fast Pitch participants are:

For more information on Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay, visit its website here.

For tickets to Friday night’s event, visit the Palladium website here.


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