If your small-but-mighty nonprofit needs to grow, consider pitching - Generocity Philly


Jan. 17, 2020 6:03 pm

If your small-but-mighty nonprofit needs to grow, consider pitching

Matt Stephenson, the cofounder of Code2College, shares his experience participating in Philanthropitch: a fast-pitch competition for nonprofits coming to Philadelphia April 21.

Matt Stephenson after fast-pitching for Code2College.

(Courtesy photo)

This guest post was written by Matt Stephenson, the executive director and cofounder of Code2College.
Code2College is the nonprofit organization I cofounded. Its mission is to dramatically increase the number of minority and low-income high school students who enter and excel in STEM undergraduate majors and careers.

Philanthropitch is a fast pitch competition helping innovative nonprofits scale and expand impact. Through Philanthropitch, nonprofits gain access to capital, receive 1:1 business coaching, pitch training and build awareness among donors, mentors and volunteers.

When I first learned about Philanthropitch, Code2College had already quadrupled the number of students that we were serving year over year, but our brand awareness didn’t reach beyond our volunteer roster. We’d seen early success with students from our inaugural and current cohort, but most funders wanted to see three or more years of outcome data.

We were a small, but mighty nonprofit competing against major players.

In early 2018, I applied to Philanthropitch with the hopes of sharing the mission and ambition of Code2College — to change the composition and complexion of the Austin Tech ecosystem by educating and empowering minority and low-income high school students through free, after-school professional and technical development programming.

I knew that taking the stage at Philanthropitch would unlock access to unrestricted capital for our growing organization and more importantly, hundreds of engaged and interested community members.

When I learned that Code2College was a finalist, I was more emboldened than nervous about pitching in front of an audience of 300+ people and a judging panel of C-level executives.

I wanted to share my vision of leveraging tech talent through skills-based volunteering to move from a tech ecosystem that’s largely white, male and transient, to one that is teeming with homegrown, racially and socioeconomically diverse talent.

I also wanted to share that the Code2College model is both sustainable and scalable.

In preparation, the Philanthropitch team helped me refine how I thought about the metrics that I would share, tips on engaging the audience more and even what visuals might be most evocative.

In May 2018, I took the stage, pitched my heart out and stuck the landing at exactly three minutes (I practiced my pitch probably 100 times with five different trusted friends that week before).

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That night, I received the highest proportion of support from the six panel judges AND four of the judges were so moved by my pitch and our mission that they each asked to host two of our interns.

If that wasn’t enough, another corporate partner ran down the aisle and announced that they would ALSO take two interns that following summer.

Including of funds raised that night, we were able to secure over $85,000 due to the intern placement aspect of our earned revenue model. It served as critical growth capital and allowed us to double the number of students served that following year and support personnel expenses.

Since Philanthropitch, we continue to hear from attendees and those who have seen my pitch video from that night. Funders, prospective employees, community and corporate partners and many other stakeholders have and continue to connect with us because of that night.

I’m eternally grateful to Philanthropitch for the trajectory that our participation in the event prompted.

Today, almost two years later, we’ve grown to serve more than 550 students (from 120 students), nearly 300 volunteers, 15 internship host companies and 60 high school interns. We have also hired our first four fulltime employees.

The countless relationships we’ve formed, brand awareness and credibility we’ve gained and follow-on investments have been an incredible ROI on that initial few hours of application development.

If you’ve read all the way through this, stop what you’re doing now and apply now (the application deadline is January 22 at 11:59 p.m.). This could be one of the best decisions you’ve made all year. For us, it was one of the best I made in the last decade.

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