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Good for Santa Barbara

Nonprofits Receive Crash Course in Communication with Fast Pitch SB

With business background, Social Venture Partners program teaches nonprofit leaders how to develop concise, persuasive pitches for potential donors and volunteers

Keith Terry, center, won the $15,000 SVP Impact Award for YStrive for Youth at the 2015 Fast Pitch SB event. The organization tackles youth behavior associated with joining gangs. Click to view larger
Keith Terry, center, won the $15,000 SVP Impact Award for YStrive for Youth at the 2015 Fast Pitch SB event. The organization tackles youth behavior associated with joining gangs. (Fast Pitch SB photo)

With hundreds of competitors in Santa Barbara County, nonprofit organizations always are looking to get a leg-up when making their cases to potential donors and those looking to get involved. Often, a quick pitch is their only opportunity to add to their coffers or boost volunteer rolls.

Enter Fast Pitch SB, a program by the Santa Barbara affiliate of Social Venture Partners, a worldwide organization that funds and partners with local nonprofits and connects them to philanthropists interested in putting their money toward a measurable social benefit.

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Fast Pitch SB is a free, two-month communication training program for nonprofit leaders in the county. During the course, nonprofit heads are connected with other nonprofit heads, local businesses and philanthropists as they develop three-minute pitches for potential donors, funders and board members.

“It’s American Idol meets Shark Tank for the local nonprofit sector,” said Seth Streeter, an SVP SB partner and co-founder and CEO of Santa Barbara-based wealth-management company Mission Wealth.

One of the difficulties nonprofits face is simply getting their message across effectively, said Ernesto Paredes, also an SVP SB partner and chief energy officer of Fast Pitch SB.

“They have the mission in their heart and they have the compassion, but they don’t have the business understanding,” said Paredes, executive director of Easy Lift, a local charitable organization that provides transportation for those with limited mobility.

Having mentors from the business world, he said, means that when an organization loses a funding source, it will know how to adapt its financial strategy to survive the downturn.

During the two-month program, nonprofit leaders are matched with local entrepreneurs, who coach them as they refine their message — who they are, why they’re in business and what they need to make it to the next level — into three-minute pitches that audiences will understand and appreciate.

“That’s why being able to really fine-tune that three-minute message is extremely valuable — so that they can go to funding sources, individuals and just have better confidence with what they’re, quote-unquote, selling,” Paredes said.

The audience, Streeter noted, is “hopefully going to be sparked by what (presenters) share and hopefully want to get involved, whether as a volunteer, a board member or a donor.”

Seth Streeter, CEO of Mission Wealth, brought the Fast Pitch concept to Santa Barbara, the smallest city to attempt the undertaking. “We did in a shorter period of time than the other larger cities, and we did it with a population of about 10, 15 percent of these other cities,” Streeter says. “And I think our event has been just as successful, if not more so in some ways.”
Seth Streeter, CEO of Mission Wealth, brought the Fast Pitch concept to Santa Barbara, the smallest city to attempt the undertaking. “We did in a shorter period of time than the other larger cities, and we did it with a population of about 10, 15 percent of these other cities,” Streeter says. “And I think our event has been just as successful, if not more so in some ways.” (Mission Wealth photo)

“We want to support nonprofits in our community that are somewhat under the radar,” explained Streeter, who heard about the Fast Pitch concept in 2013 and introduced it to Santa Barbara.

It’s the first city with a population of less than 1 million to try out the concept, he said.

“We did in a shorter period of time than the other larger cities, and we did it with a population of about 10, 15 percent of these other cities,” Streeter said. “And I think our event has been just as successful, if not more so in some ways.”

Twenty nonprofits are accepted each year into the program, which culminates in a finale where roughly half deliver their pitches to an audience. The presentations are judged on how engaging the speakers are, how well they communicate information about their organization, their clarity and specific call to action.

Last year’s $15,000 grand prize winner was Keith Terry, executive director of YStrive for Youth Inc., which tackles youth behavior associated with joining gangs.

The training has resulted in an increase in these nonprofits’ finances and the number of volunteers and board members they can recruit, Streeter said.

The ability to deliver a succinct and persuasive pitch, Paredes noted, means Fast Pitch’s nonprofits have immediately seen individuals hop on as donors or board members, and businesses take them under their wing in partnership.

“As executive directors, it’s great for us to know what else is out there,” he said. “Who knows what kind of partnerships we could have and collaborations that we can have. They’re usually built through relationships.”

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Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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