Youth Code Jam Pitch Perfect at Philanthropitch San Antonio

By Iris Gonzalez
Debi Pfitzenmaier, CEO of Youth Code Jam, holding a large check she won at the Philathropitch pitch competition for nonprofits.

Six finalists took turns pitching innovative solutions to local community challenges Tuesday evening at the Tobin Center. The judges and audience listened as each spoke about their respective social impact venture at Philanthropitch, a fast-pitch event that connects nonprofits with mentors and capital to help them scale to sustainable funding models. A panel of investors donate their own money, then decide how it should be distributed among the finalists. All ticket proceeds from the event go to the nonprofit that wins the “audience’s choice” award.

Of the $110,000 available from a combination of awards from sponsors, judges, and the audience’s choice, one founder garnered almost half the event’s amount. Debi Pfitzenmaier, CEO of Youth Code Jam had collected eight different checks totaling $50,000 to help fund its scaling of free events organized to introduce students to coding in a fun and accessible way.

The remaining $60,000 was distributed to five finalists: James Talarico, executive director of Reasoning Mind; Drew Galloway, executive director of MOVE San Antonio; Robert White, CEO of VETTED; executive director of Restore Education Kelli Rhodes; and Anne Krause, executive director of the Hemisfair Conservancy.

“It’s so amazing to see the community support and understanding that coding is, in fact, a critical literacy,” Pfitzenmaier said. “This funding and the coaching we’ll receive will allow us to scale this program across the state so we can bring coding to all kids.”

Founded in 2013 in Austin, Philanthropitch has awarded more than $500,000 to help nonprofits expand their social impact. Over 40 San Antonio area nonprofits applied to participate in the city’s first Philanthropitch event to pitch for financial capital and mentoring. Each nonprofit finalist underwent nearly two months of review before being selected by the Philanthropitch team based on the scalability and sustainability of their impact-based model. The live event was co-hosted onstage by the chairman of The Bank of San Antonio J. Bruce Bugg, Jr. and Lisa Graham, co-founder of Notley, a micro private equity firm that serves the community as a catalyst for social innovation through projects such as Philanthropitch.

“At Notley, we’re excited to bring Philanthropitch’s social impact fast-pitch event to San Antonio’s community of purpose-driven nonprofits,” Graham said. “The Philanthropitch model is about channeling best practices and expanding upon the most impactful programs. Through this event, we hope to spread socially-minded approaches that are scalable and sustainable across our communities.”

Judges included Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of San Antonio Economic Development Foundation; Julian Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former mayor of San Antonio; Lew Moorman, founder and general partner of Scaleworks; John Eadie, founder and managing director of Covenant; Cristal Glangchai, founding director of the Blackstone Launchpad at The University of Texas at Austin; Author of VentureGirls; Kate Rogers, executive vice president of The Holdsworth Center; and Lisa Fullerton, president and CEO of A Novel Idea. The first annual Philanthropitch San Antonio was sponsored in part by The Bank of San Antonio, The Tobin Endowment, Overland Partners, The 80/20 Foundation, NatureSweet, Whataburger, and Covenant.

How to be Pitch Perfect

The Philanthropitch pitch competition reinforced the same best practices every founder, regardless of business model, should remember when pitching.

Tell a good story. A founder shows his or her unwavering passion for the project with a good story that helps the audience connect with the cause. That passion helps explain why you became the best person to address this particular pain point.

Use data to make your case. Show potential investors how you are solving a problem with data to make your business case. Don’t tell how you are making lives better, show it with statistics that make that clear.

Know your numbers. Whether it is earned revenue, capital costs, or cost per client, track your numbers and have them ready to reference in your answers. Be prepared to explain why you asked for a certain amount of money and how it will be used.

Address sustainability. No investor is interested in funding a potential black hole. Explain how your venture is structured to be sustainable over time and how funds will support that.

Talk about scalability. Use data to show how your capacity increases as costs go down and you scale upward. Explain your business model so it is clear how you will accomplish the dual objectives of sustainability and scalability.

Inspire your audience with your “big audacious goal.” Judges want to understand, “What does success look like to you?” Every investor wants to know the founder has a clear vision of what constitutes success because a clear goal enables tracking of progress to achieve it.

Remember methodology and approach. Be sure your audience understands your approach and why yours is different, better—in short, worth investing in or supporting.

Featured image shows Debi Pfitzenmaier, CEO of Youth Code Jam, holding one of eight checks she was awarded at the first annual Philanthropitch San Antonio pitch event for nonprofits.

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