Six nonprofits battled it out Tuesday, June 5 at the Innovators Society Community Pitch Showdown in which following a “Shark Tank”-style pitch, audience members voted in real time to give away …
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Six nonprofits battled it out Tuesday, June 5 at the Innovators Society Community Pitch Showdown in which following a “Shark Tank”-style pitch, audience members voted in real time to give away $500,000 in grant money.
The Innovators Society, a program of Community First Foundation, invests in promising, but not yet proven, nonprofit innovations to increase awareness and change perceptions of mental health.
“It is important that as a community we come together around this stigma of mental health,” said Noah Atencio, vice president of community impact at Community First Foundation.
Earlier this year Community First Foundation identified six nonprofits with promising approaches to mental wellness and has been working with them for the past six months to prepare them for the pitch competition.
“What Community First did was incredible,” said Sandy Austin, one of six giving a pitch. “What they invested into us with the coaching, they really helped us to hone our message and help us think through what are the most important things we are doing. It was incredible. What an amazing program this has been.”
Austin, a school counselor at Pomona High School in Arvada and previously at Green Mountain High School in Lakewood, presented for her nonprofit B.I.O.N.I.C. The group, which stands for Believe it or Not, I Care, was launched 14 years ago after multiple student suicides at Green Mountain High School. The team empowers young people to reach out to students facing challenging times so they know they are not alone. By activating compassion in kids, the group aims to save lives and create more caring communities.
“During the suicides at Green Mountain what was amazing was how the community came together,” Austin said.
Out of the six nonprofits, B.I.O.N.I.C. drew the most financial support with the audience pledging $110,050 to help increase the scale of the program. The nonprofit currently is run at Green Mountain and Pomona high schools, but hopes to expand to all of Jefferson County's middle and high schools, and beyond.
“The audience saw the most potential in B.I.O.N.I.C. today and I think that's really exciting,” Atencio said.
Other nonprofits that competed are Apprentice of Peace, which engages youth to normalize mental health stigmas through leadership, arts, wellness and skilled trades; My Quiet Cave, which creates spaces to bridge the gap between faith and mental health; Open Labs, which aims to bridge the gap between shame and openness; Young Invincibles, a leadership program committed to improving mental health access; and YouthRoots, a program that uses youth to lead civic engagement.
Funds from the June 5 pitch innovation will not be distributed until December, as nonprofits will spend the next six months participating in high-impact coaching to accelerate their innovations and create a plan for using their new grant dollars.
The final act is a grand prize of an additional $50,000 to whichever group puts in the most effort during the high-impact coaching phase.
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