Pitch It! The Innovation Challenge Showcase

November 12, 2019

Since 2012, the Greater New Orleans Foundation has awarded over $220,000 to 18 nonprofits through the Pitch It! Innovation Challenge. The purpose of this challenge is to support breakthrough ideas in the nonprofit field by encouraging nonprofits to rethink, reframe, and reimagine how they do their business.

On November 11, 2019, we hosted a Pitch It! Showcase at the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy. During this event we spotlighted one of the great successes of the program, the partnership between Lighthouse Louisiana and the New Orleans RTA. The event also featured a panel discussion between Kellie Chavez Greene, our Director of Nonprofits Leadership & Effectiveness, and former participants including: Chad Sanders, Case Manager for First 72+, Jenice Heck, Vice President of Vision Rehabilitation Services for Lighthouse Louisiana, and Nick Richard, Executive Director for NAMI St. Tammany.

“Since 1923, GNOF has been a pivotal leader and our ambitions today call for that to strengthen. Together, with nonprofit leaders, donors, and philanthropic partners, the Greater New Orleans Foundation has accomplished a great deal. Together, we have invested in community, in health, in education, and in the environment. Together, we helped develop nearly 9,500 units of affordable housing after Hurricane Katrina. Together, we helped those affected by the Gulf Coast oil spill in 2010. Together, we helped folks that are disconnected from work get and keep jobs that can support their families. These are just a few of the ways we work together to strengthen the communities we care so much about.” – Andy Kopplin, President & CEO, Greater New Orleans Foundation.

“Moving forward, one of our ambitions at the Greater New Orleans Foundation is for our region to be known for having the best governed, best managed, most effective nonprofits in the nation. By focusing on board governance and nonprofit leadership, we drive greater effectiveness and impact. The nonprofits of our region represent the very fabric of our civic life. We need them to be strong and vibrant which is why we work so much with them. Through workshops, coaching, capacity building for executive directors and board members of nonprofits, and even competitive grants, our NLE Program is at the center of helping to build the strongest nonprofit sector in the country.” – Andy Kopplin, President & CEO, Greater New Orleans Foundation.

In 2018, NLE supported 269 nonprofits, trained 1,399 leaders and board members, and dedicated over 642 hours to specific workshops and leadership programs.

“The PitchIt! Innovation Challenge is one of our best-known competitive grant programs designed exclusively to support innovation in nonprofits.” – Andy Kopplin, President & CEO, Greater New Orleans Foundation

In our panel discussion, we were joined by Chad Sanders, Case Manager from the First 72+. With over 100 years of collective experience in prison on the founding team, the First 72+ builds off of the experiences of Formerly Incarcerated People (FIP) to help others transition out of prison and build for the future.

In 2017, the First 72+ pitched their innovative idea to start a “pay it forward communal loan fund.” This fund provides free financial services and financial life skills education to formerly incarcerated people. The mission of the fund is to assist FIPs with rejoining the workforce, resolving court debt to remove the risk of arrest and incarceration that comes from non/missed payments, and building small businesses. Loans are made at zero interest, and the loans are secured by ongoing education and peer-led lending circles comprised of other loan recipients who meet monthly to make payments and troubleshoot missed payments. Repayment are reported to the credit bureaus to build credit history.

Since their grant in 2017, the First 72+ has been able to loan over $40,000 to FIPs to help with small business startup and operations, workforce reentry, and other day-to-day needs that are necessary for returning to a normal life. This fund allows people who are traditionally ignored by banks to get the funding that they need.

We were also joined by Nick Richard, Executive Director, NAMI St. Tammany. NAMI St. Tammany is a grassroots organization dedicated to offering education, support, resources, and advocacy for individuals living with mental illness, their families and the community.

In 2015, NAMI St. Tammany came in second place in the Pitch It! Challenge with their innovation of a smartphone app that will provide first-responders with a searchable online, up-to-date resource directory by category of where they can take an individual who is in crisis/needs help, rather than drop them off to inadequate places like Emergency Rooms and jail.

Their app connects first-responders with mental health resources in and around St. Tammany Parish at their fingertips to aid when they encounter someone who is in a behavioral health crisis. The great success of this app has reached beyond St. Tammany and has been expanded and monetized across Louisiana and the nation.

Our final guest panelist was Jenice Heck, Vice President of Vision Rehabilitation Services, Lighthouse Louisiana. Lighthouse Louisiana’s mission is to empower people with disabilities through services, employment, and advocacy.

In 2016, Lighthouse Louisiana pitched their innovation called Mo-Mobility. Their program included a partnership with the New Orleans RTA that increases independence for teens and adults who are visually and hearing impaired by eliminating key deficiencies in our current bus route system.

Lighthouse Louisiana won their pitch competition on a Friday, and by the following Monday, they were in meetings with the New Orleans RTA. This partnership has grown and helps visually and hearing impaired riders daily with increased independence by improvements in the bus route system through smartphone technology, bus stop markings, call center sensitivity and verbal destination announcements.

To support the Pitch It! Innovation Challenge through your GNOF fund or corporate sponsorship, please contact Erin McQuade-Wright at 504.598.4663 or erin@gnof.org.