Fast Pitch: Unleashing Potential through Storytelling

July 11, 2012

2010 Fast Pitch Winner John Sullivan © Steve Cohn Photography

Have you ever heard a story that gives you goose bumps? It happens to me every time I watch the “Fast Pitch” video with this opening line:

“I’m an Eagle Scout, an ex-convict, a recovering heroin addict, and the Founder and Creative Director of BTS Communications.”

When John Sullivan spoke those words at LASVP’s 2010 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, the audience was riveted. John leads BTS Communications, an organization that trains residents of Beit T’Shuvah’s drug treatment center in advertising and marketing, equipping them with valuable career skills to help them get a fresh start in life.

John started the Social Innovation Fast Pitch program with an amazing story to tell, but he lacked the confidence and skills to tell it. In that respect, John was not unique. At Los Angeles Social Venture Partners, we’ve seen over the years through our grantmaking and capacity building work that many nonprofit leaders have amazing ideas, tremendous passion, and compelling results, but are challenged with how to get their message across.

So in 2008, we created the annual Social Innovation Fast Pitch: a 2-month training and mentoring program that helps 20 nonprofit leaders to succinctly and powerfully “tell their story” in a 3-minute pitch. It culminates in a “Fast Pitch” competition – a high-energy, fast-moving experience where 10 finalists deliver their pitch to judges and an audience of hundreds, competing for grant prizes. Last year, judges and attendees included funders, as well as business and nonprofit leaders in Southern California, like the California Community Foundation. We quickly found out that not only is Fast Pitch an effective way to help organizations develop fundraising, marketing and leadership capacity, it’s also a blast!

Help us find applicants for the 2012 program – the deadline to apply is Monday, July 16!

What’s so special about the Fast Pitch?

  • It’s transformative. Participants transcend their own expectations. Almost no one thinks they can do it in 3 minutes. With coaching and lots of hard work, they prove to themselves not only that they can, but that they can blow people away!
  • It’s inspiring! Volunteer coaches and event attendees consistently tell us how inspired they are by the pitches and the incredible work these nonprofits are doing. In fact, they are inspired to action – to donate, volunteer and connect.
  • It works. In addition to grants awarded at the events, alumni organizations have benefitted from more than $700,000 in additional donations, numerous volunteers, and new board members.

Where is John today? He says the experience helped him gain confidence as a speaker and a leader, and has helped the young program gain credibility. In 2011, they received a $250,000 Cutting Edge Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation.  BTS Communications has also grown from employing 4 interns per year to 20.

His is just one success story, but it speaks to the difference we can make when we partner together to support positive social change in our community. It’s a pleasure to have these amazing organizations as part of our story, and a true honor to become a part of theirs.

Thanks for reading,

Diane Helfrey is the Executive Director and a Founding Partner of Los Angeles Social Venture Partners, an affiliate of Social Venture Partners International. You can watch the 3-minute pitches at the Social Innovation Fast Pitch website, or read success stories on LASVP’s blog. The deadline to apply for this year’s program is July 16.

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