Just imagine you are standing in front of Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Robert Harjavec and Lori Griener on the set of the TV hit series “Shark Tank” pitching your business in 30 seconds or less and maintaining your cool. Now imagine you are one of eight non-profits pitching your business in front of a group of engaged bankers, community leaders and informed citizens. Hopefully the latter is a little less stressful. This spring, Woodforest National Bank presented two nonprofit organizations with grants of $10,000 each to aid with specific goals and organizational needs following a “Shark Tank”-style competition. I was fortunate enough to attend one of the grant competitions in Raleigh and spoke with Matthew Clatworthy, vice president of Woodforest National Bank. Just imagine you are standing in front of Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Robert Harjavec and Lori Griener on the set of the TV hit series “Shark Tank” pitching your business in 30 seconds or less and maintaining your cool. Now imagine you are one of eight non-profits pitching your business in front of a group of engaged bankers, community leaders and informed citizens. Hopefully the latter is a little less stressful. This spring, Woodforest National Bank presented two nonprofit organizations with grants of $10,000 each to aid with specific goals and organizational needs following a “Shark Tank”-style competition. I was fortunate enough to attend one of the grant competitions in Raleigh and spoke with Matthew Clatworthy, vice president of Woodforest National Bank.
“Over the last three years, Woodforest has given $12 million to nonprofits across the country,” said Clatworthy. “This time, we wanted outside-the-box. We wanted the community to decide what organization will receive our support.” After deciding to host a competition in Raleigh and a second competition in Charlotte, the Bank announced the contest and the applications – extensive applications at that – poured in. With more than 175 nonprofits to choose from, the difficult part came. North Carolina leaders at the bank now had to narrow it down to 10 organizations from across the state to include in the “Shark Tank” competition in-person. The 10 chosen applicants, who all had to submit full business plans and a unique plan for how they would spend the grant donation, then presented their organization’s mission, financial assistance needs and business plans in front of a judging panel, Woodforest management and employees and interested attendees (me). The panel of judges (a little bit less intimidating than Mark Cuban) included various community leaders and stewards including Emily Bruce, director of development at Marbles Children’s Museum, Patricia Ross, teacher at Hillside High School in Durham, and our own Dawn Thompson, vice president, national legislative affairs and associate counsel at NCBA (among many others).
“We thought it made the most sense to bring in influential members in the community together to decide where this grant money should go,” said Clatworthy. “The hardest part of all of this was undoubtedly choosing the organization that receives both grants. The judges absolutely had their work cut out for them as all of the nonprofits that applied and presented were so deserving. I did not envy their role in choosing the winners!” The truth was, I did not envy their position either and was glad to be a spectator in it all. But, after much careful thought, consideration and reflection, the judges chose the two lucky winners. At the Raleigh Luncheon, the grant winner was The Hope Center at Pullen, a nonprofit that connects young people aging out of foster care in Wake County with the resources and support needed to make a successful transition into adulthood. With 20,000 young people aging out of the foster care system in our nation on an annual basis, The Hope Center aims to empower these young adults and provide them with the help they need at what can be a very difficult time in their lives.
The presentation included a first-hand account from a 23-year-old who has greatly relied on the services provided by The Hope Center during her own transition as a mother of two young children. It was so inspiring to hear how The Hope Center has provided her with the confidence to achieve her goals and dreams and has provided her with a great sense of community and belonging. And there are many other stories similar to hers. Since its inception, The Hope Center has helped countless young people secure employment, maintain safe and stable housing, enroll in GED programs or post-secondary education and make lasting connections with new mentors and friends.
In Charlotte, the judges awarded The Samaritan House, a local nonprofit providing short-term recuperative care for homeless men and women following a hospital or emergency room stay, with the $10,000 grant. With a very impressive success rate – not only do they help people get well, but nearly every single one of the people they have helped were no longer homeless when they left – they serve homeless men and women 18-years old or older referred by medical personnel from hospitals or local medical facilities. “I think the overall difference marker between The Samaritan House and the other organizations presenting was their innovative mission and the impact and success of each client,” said Clatworthy. “Without The Samaritan House, these individuals are put back on the streets with ailments that 99 percent of the time land them right back in the hospital down the road. It is such a great service to individuals in need and the overall community as they help solve health issues, housing needs, hunger and provide various other services to set their guests up for success when they exit the house.” And now, both The Hope Center at Pullen and The Samaritan House have $10,000 in grant money donations to continue their mission in changing the lives of others. But, the Bank did not stop there. As a surprise, they donated $1,000 to each of the other presenting organizations – 10 in total between Raleigh and Charlotte. If only contestants on “Shark Tank” were this lucky!
Source: Kathleen Donnelly, Carolina Banker
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