Seed20 spotlights groups and people promoting positive social change

Venture philanthropy. Ever heard of it? Well, it's about to take off in Charlotte thanks to Social Venture Partners Charlotte, which describes itself as "a diverse network of engaged individuals who are addressing community needs through a new model of giving."

Eighty-two people and organizations applied to be part of SVP Charlotte's first "Seed20 class." That means, according to the organization, they "have compelling ideas for creating positive social change that can have real impact in the Charlotte region."

The 20 groups selected as semi-finalists cover a wide range, from organizations that help people learn how to grow their own food to aid for the homeless to education-based and parental skills development non-profits.

The selection of 20 semi-finalists is only the beginning:

SVP Charlotte and over 40 volunteer coaches — made up of business and nonprofit leaders from across the region — will work with the SEED20 Class of 2012 over the next several weeks to hone their messages and presentation skills. At the end of this coaching period, SVP Charlotte will choose 10 finalists who will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges and a live audience at SEED20Unleashed! on the evening of March 6, 2012.
At the competition, finalists will make three-minute pitches in an effort to win thousands in grant funding:

Four grants totaling $30,000 will be awarded as follows: Judging Panel First and Second Place Awards of $15,000 and $7,500, respectively; Coaches Award of $5,000; and Audience Choice award of $2,500.
If you'd like to attend, know that tickets go on sale noon Thurs., Jan. 19.

We asked a couple of the semi-finalists about the application process and what it means to win.

Shannon Binns, of Sustain Charlotte, said the applicants "were given five questions and our answers together were limited to three pages." He's been running the small non-profit for two years by himself — while also working a full-time job. Here's what he had to say about being selected as a semi-finalist:

"Seed funding such as this will allow us to hire someone, begin working towards our mission in earnest, and ensure our organization remains viable. We have many initiatives we would like to pursue, and which of these we lift off the ground will depend on the amount of funds we are able to attract, and when we receive them.  How will it impact Charlotte? Charlotte is consistently ranked one of the least sustainable cities in the country and our goal is to change this. This is critical because sustainability is now widely considered the leading driver of economic well-being, quality of life, population trends, public health, environmental conditions and other measures of community vitality."

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