A simple, direct vision frames everything the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce does. We aim to build a vibrant and prosperous community through business leadership.
We usually think of this in terms of attracting new business, advocating for business-friendly regulations and providing ways for business owners to connect with each other. Yet there are other means to build a prosperous community, including investing in social entrepreneurs who create nonprofits.
And not just with donations. Founders of charitable organizations are like small-business owners: they have identified a niche and are doing their best to fill it. They’re often so dedicated to their cause, though, that they don’t give the business side enough attention.
I was reminded of this last year when I attended Fast Pitch at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. The event is organized by Social Venture Partners Arizona, which brings a venture capital approach to funding nonprofits. The group’s network of partners identify promising groups and invest time, talent and money.
The most visible way is through the Fast Pitch competition, a two-month training and mentoring program. There were 26 semi-finalists who began the process. They receive invaluable advice on honing their messaging and how to run their nonprofit like a business, so they can serve more people.
Nine are chosen for the showcase event. The finalists have three minutes to share the mission, vision and impact of their organizations before a live audience in hopes of receiving grant money. More than $50,000 is up for grabs.
It’s an inspiring evening, opening your eyes to how much good work is quietly being done across the Valley.
Two of the semi-finalists are from my hometown of Scottsdale.
- Mindfulness First provides programs that teach children and adults the tools to manage stress and navigate life’s challenges, using the principles of mindful awareness and social emotional learning.
- NorthBridge College Success helps and supports students with learning differences such as ADHD, dyslexia or Asperger’s as they move into post-secondary education.
I’d guess most Scottsdale residents are unaware of these two organizations, just as most Valley residents are likely unaware of the semi-finalists making important contributions in their communities. There are so many charitable groups with tremendous potential that could be tapped with the right investment.
I’m honored to have been asked to join the panel of community judges who will choose the winner of a $10,000 grant. Social Venture Partners Arizona will choose other winners, including the organization that receives up to three years of financial and mentoring support.
I hope you’ll join me for Fast Pitch on March 28 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Come hear these charitable leaders describe, in just three minutes, the work they’re doing to build a vibrant and prosperous community.
And then consider how you might help, perhaps as a volunteer mentor through Social Venture Partners Arizona. We in business have a lot to offer. And you know what? You’re likely to learn as much as you teach.
Tickets for the Fast Pitch event can be purchased at FastPitchsvpaz.org.
Editor's Note: Mark Hiegel is president and CEO of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce.