“Tonight is about inspiration. Tonight is about human connection. Tonight is about making a difference,” said Seth Streeter, as introduction to Fast Pitch Santa Barbara, which took place last Thursday at the Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall. Conceived and hosted by philanthropist-minded Social Venture Partners, the occasion was a culmination of seven weeks of boot camp-like communications training for 20 area nonprofits, 10 of which made it to this final round. According to the evening’s format, the nonprofit’s spokesperson had three minutes to “pitch” their cause to seven judges and the audience.

While some presenters used props, some humor, and others told real-life stories, all made passionate pleas for their worthy causes. After their delivery, each “contestant” received feedback from the judges, who included Geoff Green (Fund for S.B.); Marybeth Carty (Venoco, Inc.); Lori Gaskin (President, SBCC); Harry Grammer (New Earth Organization); Jose Huitron (Hub 18); Laurie Leighty (American Riviera Bank), and mayor Helene Schneider.

The big winner of the night was Solvang Elementary School’s Viking Café– Bethany Markee gave such a compelling pitch that she and her nonprofit were awarded both the Grand Prix award ($15,000) and Audience Choice award ($10,000). Winner of the Mission award ($5,000) went to Meichelle Arntz’s Angels Foster Care, and the State Street award went to Lynn Houston’s A Different Point of View, a flying program for kids. All finalists received a $1,000 Social Venture Partners award.

The others competing were AHA!, CASA of Santa Barbara County, Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Fruit and Vegetable Rescue (“Veggie Rescue”), Sarah House Santa Barbara, The Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, and Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara.

Although this was Santa Barbara’s inaugural Fast Pitch, Social Venture partners from other major cities, including Los Angeles and Boston, have hosted successful Fast Pitch events over the past few years. Considering the response of attendees, the Santa Barbara Fast Pitch looks to be joining the annual party.

For more information and to apply for Fast Pitch 2015, visit socialventurepartners.org/santa-barbara


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