TAMPA — When nonprofit leaders gathered in a conference room in the Lowth Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Tampa last month, the passion was palpable.
With notepads and pens and computers ready for the workshop topic of the day, the leaders greeted one another and prepared to learn about finances and operation and roles. The most passionate of them all was Social Venture Partner Tampa Bay's Jennifer Finney, a University of Tampa graduate.
Finney, along with other SVP partners, gathered in the space with the goal of preparing the nonprofits to present in SVP's special Fast Pitch Competition, an event that will allow them to compete for prizes totaling $60,000.
These 13 nonprofits have met for weekly incubator workshops run by SVP, aiming for the competition patterned after the popular television show Shark Tank. The leaders will face off from 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Friday (Dec. 1) at The University of Tampa's Fletcher Lounge in Plant Hall to vie for the coveted support of SVP, which looks to bring together philanthropists and business leaders to create a collaborative effort that will boost nonprofit organizations.
"We always combine cash donations with in-kind services," said Randy Rosenthal, an SVP member and owner of Tricycle Studios. "We will continue to support the winners with tools and expertise to help their social enterprises become sustainable sources of revenue to support their core nonprofit. The goal here is to help them become less reliant on shrinking government and private funding. This is our model of engaged philanthropy."
For Finney, it's exciting to witness the accelerator program process and see the nonprofits conclude they can implement the business strategies in their organizations.
"It's surprising to see the nonprofits' level of passion," Finney said. "They believe in what they are doing and they are using applied skills and knowledge."
Finney graduated from UT in 2016 with an undergraduate degree in public health, so her entrepreneurial interest came about by chance. She stumbled across the university's entrepreneurship center and fell for the field that allowed her to be a part of creating impactful businesses. She went on to pursue her masters in entrepreneurship from UT.
She recently started with SVP this year and found her place working with the group.
"SVP is a great group of partners that share a vision and have people ready (to make things happen)," Finney said.
In the program, each nonprofit is paired with a mentor to help them form their own pitch and work with them one-on-one to measure progress within each nonprofit. Above all, the workshops allow for collaboration and interaction between each nonprofit to discuss what did or did not work in their own experiences.
SVP guest speakers talk about different aspects of running a successful nonprofit from the business stand points and allow nonprofit representatives to respond and ask them questions.
Beyond all that, each nonprofit is there with the goal in mind of using this program to successfully manage the business aspects to thrive in making their mission a reality for those they are trying to help.
One organization involved in the accelerator program is Enactus at USF, an international nonprofit that brings together student, academic and business leaders for the purpose of entrepreneurship and sustainability. The organization strives to help students develop the skills and perspective necessary for leadership in the world. Enactus at USF president Priyeshwar Sodhi, said the SVP program has helped his group take actionable steps.
"With the work we've done with our mentor, we've been able to make a clearer message and grow as a program," Sodhi said. "We have more structure and a clear vision of our strengths and weaknesses and how to move forward."
Along with other mentors working with nonprofits in the program, Finney has worked with Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative during the incubator workshops. The group agrees that Finney has helped them develop after the first week in workshops.
"Jennifer is so smart and has completely changed the way we look at our nonprofit," said Carrie Hepburn, executive director of Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative. "She asks the tough questions and translates the business concepts and teaches how to apply it. She's also been very flexible and accommodating for us."
Finney said she never expected to have teams like this that show up each week with a vision in mind of what they want to accomplish.
"I'm humbled and inspired by these teams," Finney said. "We see the differences and we [SVP] take pride in that."
Contact Katelyn Massarelli at [email protected]
>>IF YOU GO
Fast Pitch Competition
Social Venture Partners Tampa Bay (SVP) stages the Fast Pitch Competition for nonprofits at 5:30 p.m. on Friday (Dec. 1) at University of Tampa's Fletcher Lounge. Attendees to the Fast Pitch competition can hear about all the nonprofits involved in the program and how they are working to create a better community. The audience will vote to see who receives part of the $60,000 in total prizes. Admission is $20 and tickets can be found online at fastpitchtampabay.com.