As a Fast Pitch Mentor for the 2016 Fast Pitch, I was paired with the founder and CEO of Read Better Be Better, Sophie Etchart, in our “matching” session as part of Social Venture Partners’ rigorous process to prepare the 20 chosen nonprofit organizations for the big night – a three-minute fast pitch with the goal of getting funding and support from the more than 600 attendees. A rewarding and daunting task for any nonprofit, but especially, as I discovered, for Sophie, her very young venture and me.
The day we met, all participants were asked to complete some character exercises as a massive group as an introduction. Sophie and I both ended up matching in many ways, and we knew from that experience we would be “paired” forever. It was her drive and keen business acumen that would later surface and give me the sense that not only was I going to be able to help her, but I could see I, too, was going to get so much out of this relationship. As we learned about the three-month process and time we would need to spend together discussing the values of her organization, the needs, the successes and the pitfalls, and boil them down into a perfect three-minute pitch, it became increasingly apparent this was going to be a mutually beneficial experience – and it was.
We had session after session of acclimating me to her organization, understanding her concept and the unique elements that made Read Better Be Better a worthy cause for Social Venture Partners and the Fast Pitch attendees to invest in. An organization that pairs third graders with eighth graders for an after school, curriculum-based program to elevate the third graders to their appropriate reading level and, at the same time, enriching the confidence and skill sets for the eighth graders to better prepare them for high school, was just the surface of what we had to condense down in the three minutes to present.
- What will it cost?
- How is the model sustainable?
- How do we identify what we will need to propel this proven concept?
This and more were what we had to not only say in a way that would resonate, but had to truly understand and vet in the first place. Why would people put their investment into this young organization and what would be the overall benefit to the community? Well, the power of collaboration and hard work culminated in an initial three-minute pitch.
The first iteration of the pitch was complete, but after hearing from judges in the first of three practice rounds, it wasn’t hitting the mark. Sophie and I continued to work together to identify the holes and better understand what we needed to do to “wow” the judges and ultimately the audience at Fast Pitch. The hard work began to pay off as Sophie came up with an impressive approach to getting across the concept of the organization, the need for a program like hers, the benefits and – of course – the ask. Her delivery was passionate and became more and more effective as we practiced. I asked her to pitch it to anyone and everyone who would sit still. She did. Her nerves, her confidence, her gratitude and, above all, her passion surfaced to great satisfaction by the two of us. We bonded, empowered one another, learned new skills and, ultimately, were both deeply enriched by the experience.
Coming into this process with enough experience to be considered a mentor in the first place was an honor, but to go through this valuable and well-organized process and actually grow myself was what made it all worth the important work. But more than anything, through this experience, I gained a lifelong friend and confidant. I was so enriched by the process and by Sophie and her organization, that I have become the organization’s biggest fan and advocate. The power of her organization and what we learned about it (and us) through this Fast Pitch mentoring program was exponentially beneficial and not only enriched us, but has had a meaningful impact on the nonprofit community as a whole and has become an important factor in elevating our nonprofit community Valley-wide.
While we did not win or make it to the final eight, it was clear midway through this Fast Pitch program that the impact this process would have on Read Better Be Better, on Sophie and on me was the true reward. The organization has sky-rocketed and is identifying greater success than either of us dreamed. The impact we had hoped for became very real and – to that end – is truly changing education, culture and more within the schools that Read Better Be Better is a part of. All thanks to Social Venture Partners of Arizona and Fast Pitch.
Fast Pitch 2017 is upon us. Sophie and I hope to see you March 28, 2017!
Rick McCartney is a long-time supporter of SVPAZ Fast Pitch as an attendee, mentor, judge and media sponsor. For more than 17 years, McCartney has been publishing in Phoenix. Currently, he is President and CEO of InMedia producing many local, regional and national publications and media products including the In Business Magazine and community publications, marketing automation tools, social media platforms and websites. Rick is passionate about serving the community and has worked with various children’s charities, including the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Phoenix Film Foundation, and Maricopa Workforce Connections Board.