Fast Pitch hits home run

Winnipeg Foundation provides charities with funding and training

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The Winnipeg Foundation’s fifth annual Fast Pitch competition concluded this week, with winners announced the evening of Feb. 25. The event features “12 charitable organization finalists delivering powerful, high-energy cases for support – in three minutes or less – with $26,000 in prizes at stake.”

Jennifer Partridge, the strategic projects associate with The Winnipeg Foundation, describes Fast Pitch as “a warm and fuzzy Dragon’s Den for the charitable sector.”

“We pair 12 executive leaders from charities in Winnipeg up with coaches from the business community, and together they work on a three-minute pitch to tell us what they do, why they do it and what $10,000 would do and why it matters.”

The training takes place over six weeks, culminating in a showcase where winners can receive grants of up to $10,000. But even if they don’t score the grand prize, taking part in six weeks of pitch training and networking is rewarding for participants.

Mandela Kuet is the acting executive director for African Communities of Manitoba Inc., a non-profit, non-sectarian organization, bringing together individuals and community organizations of African heritage. Susan Berthiaume is the director of child and youth care programming at Ndinawe, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth in Winnipeg. Both say the training has been incredibly valuable.

“I’ve been able to articulate our work in a concise way and clearly state what the needs are,” Kuet says. “It’s a long-term investment in terms of not only the awareness you bring to the organization, but also yourself as a leader and the skills you gain.”

“You could use that in other platforms, but also the individuals that you speak to may not come in contact with you without this platform. Having the opportunity to make those relations can help you to really connect with them down the road or strengthen relationships between organizations,” he says.

Berthiaume says that compared to the prizes, “the bigger draw was to be able to participate with and speak to an entirely different group of people than I’m normally able to speak to. We preach to our choirs often, and this is really unique, to speak to people who don’t have that context.”

“I’m not sure you could take a course that would teach you what I’ve learned in the past few weeks. To be able to distill our 13 years into a three-minute tale has been challenging but in the best way,” she says.

This process includes networking with the business sector and between charities.

“Already, Mandela is coming to speak to our classroom,” Berthiaume says. “I’m not one to naturally want to (network), and the majority of us are pretty shy or introverted and focused on our work, so this is valuable in a lot of different ways.”

Partridge says many smaller charities in Winnipeg lack the kind of marketing platform that Fast Pitch provides. “They also don’t always have the opportunity to meet people from other backgrounds like lawyers or marketing and communication professionals or accountants.”

She says the initiative was inspired by a Fast Pitch event she attended in Calgary several years ago. “What I saw was incredible, because all the charities came together and were really supporting one another, and I learned so much about the community.”

Published in Volume 74, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 27, 2020)

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