Womens wilderness speaker at podium with rockclimbing girl on background screen

Nonprofit Pitch Competition 2019: A Look at our Winners

Born out of a need to compete and survive, entrepreneurs spend countless hours thinking about efficiencies or tweaks to delight and/or better serve their customers, and to improve their bottom line and overall chances of success. But innovation isn’t cheap, and – more often than not – companies turn to investors seeking risk capital to fund their experiments … and hopefully the long-term growth of their businesses.

When Kirsten Wilson, CEO of Motus Theater – a grantee of your Community Foundation – took the stage at the Nonprofit Pitch Contest on last Tuesday evening as part of the 10th annual Boulder Startup Week and shared her experience winning last year’s competition, she expressed joy that this event provides the same risk capital to incredible nonprofits seeking to innovate greater impact on behalf of marginalized communities.

Over two hours at the third annual Pledge 1% Colorado Nonprofit Pitch Contest – brought to you by Pledge 1% Colorado and Community Foundation Boulder County – five local nonprofits also took the stage at eTown to present their unique programs created out of the need to do more with less for those in need across our county. From bringing young women from marginalized communities into the outdoors to lifting the voices of Boulder County’s LGBTQ community, this year’s contest winners (and foundation grantees) include:

First Place ($10K prize): Bridge House

Executive Director Isabel McDevitt shared how Bridge House’s work to secure jobs for individuals experiencing homelessness through the organization’s catering social enterprise has led to a new innovation: creating ready-made meals for on-the-go Boulderites, along with reduced cost meals for those in need. Bridge House’s ability to scale their model made it particularly interesting to the judges, one of whom noted that it’s more than just Bridge House’s mission and model that counts … their food was devoured at a recent event he held, too.

Audience Choice ($5K + $1K from CIBC): Women’s Wilderness

Newly-minted Executive Director Sarah Murray offered a powerful message about how Women’s Wilderness is deeply rooted in making Boulder County’s outdoor community, and our outdoor spaces, more inclusive for all. Specifically, Sarah and her team are working to empower young women (5th- to 7th-graders) from under-resourced communities through a new climbing program led by Latinx climbers.

Runner-ups ($5K each): Family Learning Center, Out Boulder County, Garden to Table

Founder and Executive Director of the The Family Learning Center, Brenda Lyle, was quick to point out that communities of color, as well as individuals and families experiencing poverty, are largely invisible in Boulder, which makes her work – supporting youth from low-income communities, preschool through college – all the more vital. Brenda and her team work tirelessly to keep kids in school, and to help them thrive throughout … and beyond. Today, many past participants of The Family Learning Center are influencers across our community.

Mardi Moore, Executive Director of Out Boulder County, shared part of her personal journey, including her leaving Colorado in the 80s after legislation was passed that removed protections for those who, like her, are part of our LGBTQ community. Mardi and her team are finalizing funding for a civil discourse workshop using a train-the-trainers model to help our community embrace inclusivity in a scalable way. In a first-of-its-kind program, Out Boulder County seeks to invite the community to learn how to tackle difficult conversations as a means to reduce hate crimes countywide.

Lisa Atallah, Executive Director of Garden to Table, has been moving into schools across Boulder County with a program that not only teaches young students about gardening and the importance of veggies, but helps incorporate their work in the garden into math and science curricula throughout the school year. To date, their veggies have reached the plates of 9,100 students in Boulder County, of which 2,500 utilize the Free and Reduced Lunch Program; much of the produce is also being donated to organizations like the Emergency Family Assistance Program (EFAA).

The esteemed judges, SVP Boulder County’s CEO Jennie Arbogash, Popsocket’s CEO David Barnett, and investor Praful Shah all had the difficult job of ranking the participating nonprofits and divvying up the $31K prize pool.

Wrapping up the pitch contest, Motus Theater presented a taste of its UndocuAmerica program with tech leaders Julie Penner and Rendl Clark – alongside Cristian Solano-Cordova and Tania Chairez – to share their powerful stories of what it’s like for them and their families to live in our community as undocumented immigrants.

Once again, I’m blown away by the support of the tech community to advance the nonprofit sector. In just three years, we’ve passed the $100K-mark, giving back to impactful Boulder County nonprofits (audience donations, included).

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