Pledge 1% Colorado: inaugural Nonprofit Pitch Contest selects finalists

As part of Boulder Startup Week last night, attendees of “Boulder Community Night: Innovation + Impact” filled the house at the Boulder Theater. The free and open event recognized entrepreneurial and innovative nonprofit ideas to solve pressing problems and critical issues facing Boulder County.

This spring, Pledge 1% Colorado (an initiative of the Community Foundation Boulder County) – along with Techstars, the Foundry Group, and the community of Colorado Certified B Corporations – launched the new opportunity to showcase how cross-sector collaborations are positively impacting our community. Other contest sponsors included Ascent CFO Solutions, Modus Law, and the Knight Foundation Donor-Advised Fund of the Community Foundation Boulder County.
“The big news tonight is that – thanks to Brad Feld [Managing Partner of Foundry Group] and Amy Batchelor [co-author of the book Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving] – we’ve doubled the contest prize from $10K to $20K,” said Morgan McMillan, representing the Community Foundation. 

“…an ethos that I’m extremely proud to be a part of.” ~Brad Feld

“…an ethos that I’m extremely proud to be a part of.” ~Brad Feld

“…an ethos that I’m extremely proud to be a part of.” ~Brad Feld

The six nonprofit finalists, narrowed down from 20 applicants, included: 
  1. Boulder Day Nursery
  2. Boulder Food Rescue
  3. Community Cycles
  4. El Centro Amidstad
  5. “I Have a Dream” Foundation of Boulder County
  6. Imagine!
Each finalist was paired with a mentor from the startup community to refine their 3-minute pitches for the event, comprising mostly Boulder Startup Week attendees.
Imagine! shared the story of Shelly, an artist, whose disability doesn’t slow her down, thanks to services provided by the Lafayette-based nonprofit. Last year, Imagine! served 3,500 individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities in Boulder and Broomfield counties – but the organization is short on qualified employees. In response, the nonprofit launched a new app – “Imaginect” – that flips Imagine’s traditional recruitment approach on its head. 
Next up, the “I Have a Dream” Foundation of Boulder County described its “secret sauce” to being kid experts, and how to leverage that expertise to help its 600 dreamers enter tech professions with the support of the tech industry. 
Andy Schultheiss (Open Boulder) then encouraged attendees to get involved, paving the way for Steve Callander to pitch the Boulder Day Nursery. “School readiness requires social and emotional intelligence,” he said. This local nonprofit aims to help kids – via its Kindergarten Readiness Group – to articulate complex feelings and more. 
Another finalist – El Centro Amistad – serves Boulder County Latino families, emphasizing health equity and leadership. The organization’s promotoras model educates community members how to take care of themselves and access more resources. (Promotoras are lay Latino community members who receive specialized training to provide basic health education in the community.)
Specifically, Amistad aims to educate 7K people – and combat poverty – across Boulder County with 20 promotoras. “Health begins at home. We start with the individual, then the family, then the community.”
A “Fireside Chat” – featuring Phil Weise (Silicon Flations) and young entrepreneur Emma Kaft (Dream Tank) – than highlighted the impact of a summer accelerator camp for youths, and the significance of mentors to support scaling up companies across sectors. “We in Boulder have a special responsibility,” said Phil. “People are looking to us to tell them how to build a world-class startup community. We have a special responsibility to take this concept of entrepreneurship and infuse it in anything we can, including education.” 
From there, just before break, Greg Berry (Impact Hub Boulder) discussed rapid prototyping, and underscored the need to get involved. “It takes new perspectives to unstick the problems,” he said. “Diversity is not just about social justice, it’s an innovative advantage.”
After intermission, John Tayer (Boulder Chamber) took the stage. “Be involved in the decisions we’re making in our community,” he said. “You can join a board, you can volunteer…why does it matter? Because the very future of innovation and entrepreneurship is at stake.” John went on to describe the format and impact of the Leadership Fellows program, a joint effort of the Boulder Chamber and the Community Foundation. 
The next contestant, Community Cycles, described its innovation solution to creating an “upward cycle” – and a fresh start – for people getting out of jail, who strive to successfully re-enter into community life. “People on the edge of despair are given concrete hope,” said Jennifer Marie Shriver. “‘Two wheels, three days, 100 lives’ translates to 20% of people getting out of jail benefiting from this transformative program.” 
Boulder Food Rescue – the last nonprofit pitch of the evening – made the compelling point that 40% of what we produce is thrown away, yet Boulder County community members are food insecure. “Access to food is a fundamental human right,” said Hana Dansky. 
Dr. Stephanie Gripne (Impact Finance Center), the final event speaker, focused her remarks on giving circles and donor-advised funds – and the community benefit of impact investing.

Audience members enthusiastically helped select the winner. Via mobile device, judges and audience participants voted for $10K to El Centro Amistad; $5K to Boulder Food Rescue; $2K to Community Cycles; and $1K each to the other three nonprofits. Congratulations to all!!! And many thanks to the judges: Brook Eddy (Bhakti Chai), Nicole Glares (Techstars), and Natty Zola (Techstars).

Now in its eighth year, Boulder Startup Week was founded with the idea that an open and honest community grows better together and that – once a year – everyone should have the opportunity to learn about community collaborations. With more than 200 free events happening over five days, the week is dedicated to celebrating Boulder’s startup culture.
The evening closed with live music from The Royal Pains.