A Gift that Keeps on Giving

July 5, 2013

South%20SCAccording to 2010 Fast Pitch Presenter Meredith Curry, before going through the Fast Pitch program, “There was no way for me to explain what we did in less than 15 minutes.”

Meredith Curry presented in Fast Pitch during her tenure as Executive Director of South Central Scholars, a nonprofit that provides a support network to ensure that underprivileged students are equipped with the tools they need to graduate from college and succeed in life.  South Central Scholars is a multi-faceted organization with a diverse offering of programs and services.

After the Social Innovation Fast Pitch, Meredith could break down the essential facts about South Central Scholars in less than 3 minutes in a way that is interesting and compelling.  Meredith certainly grabbed the judges’ interest at the Fast Pitch competition, taking home the prize for Best Pitch.

South Central ScholarsIn addition to the $5,000 Best Pitch prize that they received, South Central Scholars made connections with audience members at the Fast Pitch event that led to new volunteers for the organization and a $25,000 grant to put towards STEM scholarships (science, technology, engineering and math).  Meredith also sustained her relationship with her Fast Pitch coaches, who still serve as her personal and professional mentors.  “My coaches were fantastic,” says Meredith. “They are two of the most supportive people I have met in my professional career.”

Fast Pitch also helped Meredith connect with her peers in the nonprofit sphere.  She realized that nonprofit professionals have few opportunities to connect with each other in their day-to-day work, so “the opportunity for collaboration and networking between nonprofits through the programs LASVP provides is super valuable.”  Meredith still meets with three other Fast Pitch participants regularly to share resources and offer each other support.  Inspired to keep the collaborative spirit going, she also started the College Access Brain Trust, a group for nonprofit professionals working to help all students achieve college access and success. “We can talk about how to improve what we do and build off each other’s work, and that’s been a great learning experience.”

Fast Pitch is “a gift that keeps on giving,” says Meredith. “I tell every nonprofit to apply for Fast Pitch… It’s an amazing resource.”

At the time of her pitch in 2010, Meredith was Executive Director of South Central Scholars.  Currently, Meredith is the Director of Operations at the California College Guidance Initiative.  You can watch Meredith’s pitch below:

For more information about the Social Innovation Fast Pitch, click here or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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Becoming a Stronger Executive Director: Professional Development through Fast Pitch

July 5, 2013

Alina Bodke Pitching“One thousand people crammed into a two car garage. This is the amount of green space a child growing up in a poor neighborhood in Los Angeles can ever hope to have.” This shocking fact was delivered to the 2012 Social Innovation Fast Pitch audience by Alina Bokde, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT). LANLT’s work to secure land for future parks and gardens in low-income areas builds up communities. Opportunities for exercise, community engagement, citizen leadership, and safe and fun time outside are given in the green spaces LANLT secures. And Alina’s Fast Pitch experience helped her articulate “not just why the Land Trust is important, but why the issue of green spaces is so important.”

Working with her Fast Pitch coaches, Alina found new ways to connect with her audiences and deliver her powerful message. “I used to say a child had .01 acres of green space. Nobody knows what that is. But now I can say ‘a thousand people in a two-car garage’ and people can understand that. They can see it.” Alina continues to weave elements of her pitch into her other speaking engagements and says that having strong statements already in mind has been very helpful.

Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust LogoShe’s even getting her staff on board! “It was great for me to have dedicated time for professional development and I wanted to share that with my staff.” Alina says “you hear about elevator pitches all the time, but that was something I had never been trained on,” and now the whole LANLT staff is receiving the training. Sharing her experience, Alina asked everyone on her staff to create a 3-minute elevator speech about LANLT and how they contribute to the organization. “It really got the staff listening to each other – critiquing one another, reviewing together, sharing language with one another, learning things from each other.”

Alina says, “It’s great how the pitch and process has really translated to other areas. [Fast Pitch] made me a stronger executive director.”

Alina Bokde is the Executive Director of Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT). Watch her pitch from the 2012 competition below:

For more information about the Social Innovation Fast Pitch, click here or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.


Fast Pitch Success: Get on the Bus

June 6, 2013

Get On The Bus Mom and DaughterWhen asked how she became involved with Get on the Bus, community outreach director Karen Van de Laat half-jokes, “I basically called and informed them that I would be taking the job.”  She had seen a Craigslist ad for the position at Get on the Bus, and knew it was exactly what she wanted to be doing.  “If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d still keep doing this job.”

Karen won the $5,000 coaches’ award at LASVP’s 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch for Get on the Bus, a program that gives kids and their guardians rides to see their mothers and fathers in prison.  Parents in prison are often hundreds of miles away from their families, so the distance and expense makes the trip impossible for many children.  “As a mother, I just can’t imagine being separated from my child like that,” says Karen.  Prisons have noted the improved behavior and decreased recidivism in inmates who have visits with their children. While Get on the Bus has historically only been able to provide trips on Mother’s and Father’s Day, the success of the program is leading to additional trips.

Get on the Bus Logo“We have raised much more money than we did the previous year—this is definitely because of Fast Pitch,” says Karen.  She used to “wing it” when speaking to potential donors, and would often forget to mention important points and kick herself for it later.  The Fast Pitch helped her get her “best of the best” message down pat, and now she is able to adjust her pitch based on her audience and how much time she has to speak.  “Now we know how to talk to a whole different audience,” says Karen, who used to restrict most of her outreach to churches.  “That’s a major change for Get on the Bus.”

After the 2011 Fast Pitch, Get on the Bus received a $10,000 donation, “and the money kept showing up,” says Karen, in addition to more media attention than the organization had ever received in one year.  “The Fast Pitch has really helped us raise awareness, in addition to money and volunteers,” Karen says.  “And that’s the most important thing to us.”

GetOntheBusKaren Van de Laat (pictured at left) is the Community Outreach Director at Get on the Bus. As a participant of the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, Karen won the $5,000 coaches’ award.  Click here to watch Karen’s 2011 Fast Pitch.

For more information about the 2013 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, click here or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.


Haircuts and Human Touch: A Stop on the Beauty Bus Journey

April 8, 2013

Beauty BusWe connected with Beauty Bus Foundation during the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch program. Founder Wendy Levine shared the Beauty Bus story in her outstanding 3-minute pitch at the competition (watch here). Today fellow founder Alicia Marantz Liotta, shares with us another story from their amazing journey! 

Getting to the barber takes planning and coordination, just finding a babysitter for his young twin boys can be a tough venture and that’s only the first step. Scott Lew and his wheelchair are loaded, along with his ventilation gear, into the family van. Wife, Annabel, and caregiver file in after. For the Lews, safety is of utmost importance when taking trips outside the home. All possible variables are taken into account – Scott’s head shaking loose during the car ride, a vent hose popping out, suctioning of saliva and manual breathing assistance during his barber visit. The trip is possible, but it’s not easy.

Scott Lew, loving husband, father, and avid writer, has been living with ALS for the past 8 years. The neuromuscular disease, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, has taken over his ability to move his body (he is quadriplegic), speak, swallow or breathe. Everyday use of mechanical aids to carry out his life-supporting needs is routine and communication via a speech device that tracks his eye movements allows Scott to continue verbalizing his sharp wit.

Scott’s struggles with a luxury that is so often taken for granted – the ability to leave the house, get to the barber shop, take a seat, receive a haircut and leave feeling renewed – are more than an able bodied person may imagine. In learning of Beauty Bus Foundation, Scott’s interest was piqued at the ease of receiving an in-home haircut and a compassionate human touch.

“I still want to look my best at all times. Call me vain, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people who see me, look past my wheelchair and ventilator face-mask, and say stuff like, ‘Man, your hair’s getting long.’ Either because of my partial baldness, which exaggerates my otherwise bushy hair when it goes bad, or because of the genuine goodness of people, who don’t want to comment on my obvious disabilities and are just trying to make small-talk – I’m not sure, but it’s clear – I need regular haircuts.”

Scott was unsure of what was to come in his first Beauty Bus visit, only hoping for an experience that left him comfortable and safe.

“Beauty Bus volunteer Janine exceeded all expectations. At 5 feet tall and 100 lbs. soaking wet, with her nose ring and punk-rock cute skull and crossbones sweater, Janine packed a lot of personality into her small person and, I discovered, talent. Not only did she give me a great haircut (I’m easy, just short please), she also gave my wife, who has layered wavy hair that makes styling her difficult, an excellent cut as well.”

Beauty Bus client Scott Lew

“I can’t say enough positive things about the Beauty Bus. We found their service so extraordinary and helpful. I’m sure there are thousands of people with disabilities and special needs who could use their help.”

Beauty Bus Foundation delivers dignity, hope and respite to chronically or terminally ill men, women and children and their caregivers through complimentary beauty and grooming services and pampering products. Please visit their website at www.beautybus.org for more information on their programs, services and how to give or contact them directly at (310)392-0900.

You can also purchase tickets for their annual Beauty Drive coming up on May 5 by clicking here.


Creativity, Compassion, Cardborigami

March 6, 2013

Tina Hovsepian, CardborigamiWe met Tina Hovsepian through the 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch where she represented her invention and her nonprofit organization, Cardborigami. To watch Tina’s outstanding pitch, click here.

Tina Hovsepian is a textbook example of a young, passionate social entrepreneur.  She came up with a great idea while she was still an undergraduate studying architecture at USC: a collapsible, portable, recyclable shelter for the homeless.  Born and raised in LA, Tina was used to seeing people sleeping on the streets without shelter from the elements, and knew that she had the skills to provide a solution to this immediate need.  After creating a prototype “Cardborigami” shelter and testing it out on Skid Row, Tina started getting interest from buyers—people who worked with the homeless as well as groups who provided disaster relief.

But getting interest turned out to be the easy part.  Attracting funding, as is the case with many nonprofits, was a challenge.  “LA has a huge population of nonprofits and you have to really stand out from the pack to get the funding you need,” says Tina.  “Fast Pitch helped us create a very strong case for support.” Cardborigami was a finalist at LASVP’s 2011 Social Innovation Fast Pitch, and presented in front of over 1100 people.  Her experience at the Fast Pitch turned out to be incredibly useful training for a year packed with presentations and speaking engagements for the young architect, who since the Fast Pitch has presented her idea everywhere from the Pepperdine business school to the Occupy Wall Street encampment to NPR.  Tina says that since the Fast Pitch, “I know how to articulate the Cardborigami concept, and be simple and effective.  It also really helped my public speaking skills.”

In addition to the increased exposure, the Fast Pitch led to several useful connections for Cardborigami.  Tina’s Fast Pitch coaches Richard Hansen and Mark Loranger have stayed in touch, as has Fast Pitch coach and LASVP Partner Nancy Hammerman.  Nancy helped Cardborigami obtain skilled volunteers through the Harvard alumni “Harvard Serves” program, and Mark, the CEO of local homelessness organization Chrysalis, has been a useful connection to the community that Cardborigami aims to serve.  Fast Pitch also led to Cardborigami’s participation in the Annenberg Alchemy program, a major help to the organization as it started to build its board of directors.  “Annenberg Alchemy was a great opportunity that we wouldn’t have even been aware of without Fast Pitch,” says Tina.

Recently, Cardborigami has locked in a local LA-based manufacturer, and with the cost at only about $20 per shelter, it seems that we will see Tina’s invention in use very soon. You can sponsor one here. In addition to being one of the first organizations in the U.S. to receive funding from the pioneering microfinance organization Kiva,  Cardborigami is looking forward to launching with a bang through a City Council sponsored pilot program in Venice Beach.

Tina’s big dream is to use the manufacture of Cardborigami as a tool to help employ the homeless, adding a long-term strategy to this short-term necessity. “We need more compassion for each other to solve this problem,” says Tina. “Even before launching, I think we’ve accomplished something by breaking the typical stereotype of homeless people and telling their story.”

Carborigami is now seeking individuals to join their board recruiting task force. Members of the task force will nominate potential candidates for the Board of Directors and help with reviewing the organization’s bylaws. If you or someone you know is interested to be on Carborigami’s board recruiting task force, contact Tina Hovesepian at tina@cardborigami.org.


Why It Matters: Mother’s Day Radio

October 31, 2012

Shaunelle Curry, Mother's Day RadioShaunelle Curry’s Fast Pitch presentation at the event in 2011 was one of the most memorable the audience heard that night. In her pitch (which you can see here) Shaunelle described the impact that Mother’s Day Radio, the media literacy and peer mentoring program she founded, had on students who participated: 9 out of 10 now students talk to their friends about breaking the cycle of emulating media violence.

One of those students is 16-year-old Sean.* When Sean arrived at his first Mother’s Day Radio class, it was clear that he wasn’t interested in hearing anything the program had to teach. “He was wearing the whole ‘cool thug’ thing, just laughing at the whole process,” says executive director Shaunelle Curry.

One of the peer mentors assigned to Sean’s class, a college student whose high school days weren’t that far behind him, saw himself in Sean. He understood the pressure young men faced to live up to a tough guy persona. He took the time to talk to Sean one on one, and went through an exercise with him. He asked him to think of a woman that he knew and respected. Sean chose his mom. They then inserted her name into the lyrics of a violent and misogynistic song. When you disrespect women as a group, the peer mentor pointed out, you’re disrespecting the women in your life.

They sat down to talk about this, and Sean’s whole façade just fell apart. The significance of what Mother’s Day Radio was trying to teach clicked for him. From that day on, he stopped treating the program like a joke.

Sean became the class’s most outspoken advocate. When the class was discussing whether trying to put a stop to violence and misogyny in the media was even possible, he was the first to stand up and say, “We have the power to make a change. We have the power and creativity to come up with solutions.”

The difference that Mother’s Day Radio makes in the lives of young men is just as important as the impact it has on young women. “They learn that they have a choice to define their manhood in their own way,” says Shaunelle.

Since participating in the Fast Pitch, Shaunelle has made several new connections, including one that led to meeting with Mayor Villaraigosa. “Fast Pitch has been an amazing experience.”

*Name changed


Congratulations LA Business Journal Nonprofit and Corporate Citizenship Award Winners

August 29, 2012

Ezequiel Olvera, Gumball FoundationWe were proud to see some familiar names pop up in the Los Angeles Business Journal in June. At their annual Nonprofit and Corporate Citizenship Awards, the Journal honored two of LASVP’s Fast Pitch alumni and one of our past Investees. We were excited to see them honored, but not surprised. Over the years, we’ve come to expect it—the fantastic organizations we have the privilege of working with go on to climb greater heights.

The Organization of the Year award went to Chrysalis, an innovative and impactful organization fighting homelessness. Mark Loranger, who presented on behalf of Chrysalis at our first Fast Pitch event in 2008, was also a coach at the 2011 Fast Pitch program, mentoring finalist Cardborigami. Chrysalis impressed the LA Business Journal with their success in creating pathways to self-sufficiency for homeless and low-income people. According to the Journal, “In 2010 alone, Chrysalis Enterprises created over 218,000 hours of employment and generated 2.5 million in wages,” and despite a difficult job market, saw a 15% rise in employment among their clients in 2011.

The award for Outstanding Nonprofit Team went to former LASVP Investee organization TreePeople. The environmental organization’s leadership model “has created a true team approach and a culture focused on ensuring TreePeople’s ongoing success.” Congratulations to all the hard-working staff there, who continue to be dedicated to growing a sustainable future for Los Angeles.

The Social Enterprise Award went to Gumball Foundation, the organization selected as the Audience Favorite at the 2011 Fast Pitch. Their model encourages academic success and increases college access while teaching students valuable entrepreneurial skills—a triple threat that has also been making a splash in the media. Gumball Foundation has recently been featured on NBC and Telemundo, and interest in the young organization continues to grow. Ezequiel Olvera, the founder of the organization, says that his Fast Pitch training has come in handy—most recently when he addressed the audience of 500 at the Journal’s award ceremony at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel.

Congratulations to all of the Nonprofit and Corporate Citizenship Awards Honorees! We know that they will continue to achieve bigger and better things, and most importantly, keep making positive change in our communities.

Want an early peek at the nonprofits who have the potential to become the “next big thing?” Don’t miss our 5th Annual Social Innovation Fast Pitch on October 24th.