Lessons Learned at Nonprofit Bootcamp

March 17, 2016

By Kate Towson, Director of Development at Women’s Empowerment


Recently, Social Venture Partners Sacramento hosted its second annual SVP Fast Pitch competition, the culmination of an eight-week “pitch bootcamp” program for nonprofit organizations in the Sacramento region.

Think of the Fast Pitch event as a cross between Shark Tank and a Ted Talk. It was fast-paced and inspirational for all who attended. It was especially rewarding for the nonprofit organizations that participated, as they benefited from more than 18 hours of coaching by local experts in preparation for Fast Pitch, tons of opportunities to work with and learn from their peers at other nonprofits, and chances to win $25,000 in funding and in-kind support throughout the night! 

One of the big winners at Fast Pitch was Women’s Empowerment, an organization that serves women and children experiencing homelessness in Sacramento. They won the Judge’s Award and the People’s Choice Award, taking home a couple of oversized checks to support their work. After the event, Kate Towson, Women’s Empowerment’s Director of Development, shared her reflections with us:

Everything about my SVP Fast Pitch experience was fantastic. As soon as I heard about the opportunity, it sounded like exactly what Women’s Empowerment needed to gain some valuable feedback and meet new people. We got all of that, and much, much more.

Every training session was an opportunity to learn about how your ‘messaging’ is received by an audience—something most nonprofits would never know. On one of the first nights, I delivered some typical boilerplate language about our program, and folks in the audience expressed some confusion: how exactly did we help kids? In the four years I’ve been speaking on behalf of Women’s Empowerment I was sure the language I used to describe what we did also eloquently described how homeless children benefitted from our services. I thought it was obvious. It wasn’t, though. In fact, it went right over the heads of the audience. And yet, this is a crucial bit of information that I want people to know and understand. How can I expect our community to truly understand (and support) our mission if I’m not explaining it in the right way?


The mission of Women’s Empowerment is to educate and empower women who are homeless with the skills and confidence necessary to get a job, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and regain a home for themselves and their children. Read Chanelle’s story to see how the organization helped her and her family.

The training sessions were great also for the camaraderie they fostered amongst the nonprofits. We cheered each other on, gave thoughtful feedback, and got to see each and every person grow, change, and perfect their pitch. And on the night of the event, it was absolutely amazing to watch every speaker give their best pitch yet. Now, there are thirteen other phenomenal nonprofits I can lean on, ask advice from, spread the word about and share opportunities with. And on the night of the competition, you could feel the pride we all felt in watching each other succeed.

I was paired with two individual coaches who I connected strongly with. I was so impressed with their ability to hone my pitch, to ruthlessly cut what was unnecessary, and to delicately re-arrange it all until the speech flourished. They dedicated their time, for free, because of their passion to help nonprofits succeed and reach even more members of our community.

The night of the event was thrilling, terrifying, nerve-wracking, and totally inspirational. We were humbled to receive the Judge’s Award and the People’s Choice Award, and excited to be able to continue helping homeless women and children transform their lives here at Women’s Empowerment. The community came together on Saturday night and proved what amazing work we can do when we work together. Sacramento became a little bit stronger at the SVP Fast Pitch, and we were grateful to be a part of it.

See Kate’s pitch and learn more about Women’s Empowerment below:



Sacramento Region Community Foundation is proud to work with Social Venture Partners Sacramento to facilitate the program and Linda Beech Cutler, our chief executive, was honored to serve as a judge at this year’s event! Our Community Impact Officer, Jeannie Howell, offered her expertise as a nonprofit coach, too.

See the complete list of SVP Fast Pitch winners here.