Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay 2018 Fast Pitch Competition

On Thursday, October 25th, 10 Tampa Bay non-profits lined up in the wings of The Palladium in downtown St. Petersburg awaiting their turn at 3 minutes to share their stories on how they’re making Tampa Bay a better place to live, work, and play and a chance at a slice of $60,000 in cash prizes.


Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay, a local chapter of SVP International is a group of engaged philanthropists which aims to help non-profits develop long-term sustainable business models, by connecting, collaborating, and mentoring local organizations.  After being chosen from an applicant pool of over 50 Tampa Bay non-profits, the organizations participated in a rigorous 6-week business accelerator class developed and led by some of Tampa Bay's top educators and business professionals.


In the 6 weeks, each organization was led through lessons on operations, marketing, finance, legal, and the art of storytelling. Each group worked with a partner or mentor to develop a 3-minute pitch detailing the mission of their organization as well as the social enterprise that helps fund their programs. They worked hard, they practiced their pitches and the hard work and dedication to their causes lit up the audience at the 2nd annual Fast Pitch event.


This year the ten organizations pitched their stories to an audience of over 400 at The Palladium in St. Petersburg, as well as to a panel of 5 judges, which included Joe Hamilton, Lakshmi Shenoy, Gentry Byrnes, Nikkie Capehart, & Rochelle Freidman Walk. After the 3 minutes, judges had 4 minutes to question each group.The questions were insightful and thought-provoking and enabled the groups to lay out plans to scale or how they operate.  This year’s crowd was engaged and lively as they joined in audience voting as well as live “text to donate” options enabling them all to donate from their phones to the organizations right from the audience.


This year taking home first place of $25,000 was Shepherd’s Village, second place and $15,000 went to Sewn Apart, and the third place winner of $10,000 was Indi-Ed. Audience choice award went to Sailfuture, and this year a new award is given to a part participant of Fast Pitch, alumni impact award of $5,000 was awarded to Keep St. Pete Lit.

Social Enterprise & SVP Tampa Bay

With the world we are living in becoming more stressful, and issues we must overcome as a community more visible, more and more folks are reaching for ways to solve those issues. Tampa Bay is filled with nonprofits looking to fill the voids in our community in education, healthcare, human welfare, and so much more, and it’s amazing. So many well intentioned ideas, looking to solve very specific issues, but many of these organizations struggle with many of the same things.

Sustainable funding being at the top of that list. On a recent survey done by Foundation for a Healthy St.Petersburg, many organizations noted that should government, donor, or grant money be cut, they would resort to cutting valuable programs that were created to help those who really need it. On this same survey, it was noted that Social Enterprise had the lowest percentage of use by organizations.

Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay is a group of engaged philanthropists looking to fill the void by going beyond writing a check. Partners roll up their sleeves and get involved with each organization to engage and mentor them in running their non-profit more efficiently and more like a for-profit business for long term sustainability.

Social Enterprise should no longer be looked at as the last resort, it’s a growing necessity for those who are pushing for change and growth within our communities. The term is thrown around a lot lately, we have social enterprise, and social entrepreneurs, and socially conscious corporations.

Social enterprise is poised to be the solution many of the problems we face in our communities on a daily basis. Defined as "Businesses with primarily social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or community, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners.”  When executed correctly, the balance between business and mission remains equal.

The definition of social enterprise is often varied, the main goal remains the same. To become successful, the social enterprise must be run in a for profit manner in order to be sustainable for the long term, taking the best parts of nonprofit and for profit and merging them together makes for an innovative, and often times successful mission.

Most people want to believe what they are doing matters in this world. Social enterprise/entrepreneurship brings a sense of community back to a rapidly disconnected world. It can be done on many different levels, from simplistic to high tech, with the end purpose all being the same, develop a sustainable business model that also fills a need or solves a problem within our community.

Starting on August 29th, SVP Tampa Bay will begin their 2018 “Fast Pitch” program, with a 6 week business boot camp for 10 Tampa Bay area non-profits selected from an incredible pool of applicants. At the close of the 6 weeks, the 10 organizations will compete for cash prizes at our 2nd annual Fast Pitch on October 25th, at The Palladium, this event is open to the public as a celebration of all the good that happens right here in Tampa Bay.  

K. McGraw

Social enterprise blurs the lines between business and nonprofits

Here in Tampa Bay, we have social enterprises that will shred your documents, sell you a bicyclefeed you dessert and even provide veterinary services to your favorite furry friend. Each of these unique businesses is aligned to the mission of its sponsoring nonprofit, and provides an expanded platform for the organization to reach a larger number of those in need of its services.

Given its many potential forms and structures, defining social enterprise can be a challenge. The best working definition comes to us from the Social Enterprise Alliance:

“Organizations or projects that address a basic unmet need or solve a social problem through a market-driven approach.”

To solve community challenges rather than simply keeping them at bay, the community of problem solvers need sufficient resources. Program funding needs are consistent, and resources must be uninterrupted and unrestricted, so that organizations can make long-term investments in systems, human capital, and operations.

Philanthropic or government funds, by contrast, tend to fluctuate. As a result, nonprofit leaders may find themselves faced with the counterproductive choice of fighting symptoms – in order to demonstrate short term outcomes – over fighting causes and creating long term impact.

Funding a nonprofit can and should be a three-legged stool: Government grants and contracts, philanthropy and charitable support, and earned income must all be present for a stable base.

Each nonprofit, from Johns Hopkins to the Police Athletic League, has a unique mix of support. If a nonprofit is not taking advantage of market opportunities, it is missing out on critical resources that can and should be applied to its mission. It is the responsibility of organizational leaders – particularly trustees and board members – to think strategically about the long-term viability of an organization. Social enterprise must be in the conversation.

What should exempt organization leaders and board members be asking themselves? Or, asked another way, how can an organization test its readiness to embark on a social enterprise?

  • Is there a problem our organization is facing that can be addressed through market strategies – and is there a gap in the market that provides an opportunity for our organization?
  • Do we have an internal champion to lead the effort? Do we have support from the board and executive staff necessary to embark on the project?
  • Do we have (or can we obtain) the expertise to build a product or service to meet this need? Is our product/service high enough quality to compete on the open market?
  • Is our organization strong enough to undertake this project? Do we have the startup capital and cash flow flexibility necessary to operate a fledgling business?
  • What resources will we deploy to support the project, and how will we define success, both in social and financial return on investment?

These questions are only the beginning. Fortunately, resources abound, from traditional small business development information to social enterprise specific support. The Girl Scouts have a 100-year head start on the cookie business (and $4.6 billion in revenue last year from it).

What is your favorite nonprofit’s market strategy?

Matt Spence is Vice President, Community Impact of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.