What an experience! Julie and I have done many presentations before, including as paid presenters, once with an audience of about 1,000 people. That’s certainly a lot of pressure. But it’s certainly a very different thing to be pitching for $125,000 and the charity and cause that’s been a huge part of your life for more than 20 years is the potential beneficiary!
You can view the presentation yourself if interested, so I just wanted to share a few interesting insights or observations beyond what you can see from the live video, for those of you who might find yourself involved in these types of events.
The first is that to be concerned about technology and logistics is not the least bit foolish. For example, I had to completely reformat and re-embed all of the videos in our presentation the day before the competition, as for whatever reason they would not play for the organizers (despite having tested on multiple computers on my end). Also our timing was significantly off because we had not anticipated the audience would engage in sustained applause at any point in the middle of the presentation – this is great but it took about one minute out of our allotted time and resulted in a snap decision to completely skip over one of the slides. A great decision as we finished in exactly 20 minutes.
The day of the presentation (too late to do anything about it) the organizer laptop (which had consolidated all of the finalist presentations) was set for the old 4:3 aspect ratio instead of 16:9, so several of our slides were somewhat busted, with text that wrapped in unexpected places, or text boxes that appeared to be exploding. Add the 4:3 and 16:9 discussion to your list of tech checks! I think I would even consider turning my slides into image files so they can only be stretched but not broken (when the laptop in use is not in my control).
The setup was best suited to using the fixed podium microphone, but there were two of us and I’m significantly taller, but you can’t be yanking a mic up and down in a timed presentation, so I just stooped…my neck still hurts. And although I didn’t need to look at my notes very much (it looks like I’m doing that all the time) it was difficult to stoop forward and hold my head up at the same time.
The audience membership made a huge difference to me. Julie’s parents and my father were in the audience, as well as a strong contingent of our staff team, several volunteers, three individuals we are involved in supporting, and quite a large number of family members of people we support. I was not really expecting that and it was a difference-maker. I hugged most of them on the way into the amphitheater and I’m not really much of a hugger, so there you go, at 48 years old and having talked about these issue my entire life, a little reassurance and a reminder of what it’s all about still doesn’t hurt.
The question and answer was an interesting and challenging element. I’ve been on live panels and done hundreds of media interviews, but that’s not the same as a group of civic leaders acting as a jury who have read your written proposal in advance and come prepared, taking very seriously their duty to award the money as best they can.If you’ve watched Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank, I daresay that non-profit competition is much more difficult. If you are pitching in for-profit, you never have to worry about appearing that you are too successful or too capable. In the charity sector we’re not quite there yet – while the logic should be the same – charities that are good at what they do should attract additional funds to keep on doing it, and get funding to simply do it more – it doesn’t really work that way.
Funders (private, government, and non-profit) and public perception both remain attached to the idea that charities should not be “too successful.” But really, if they are using the resources to deliver efficiently and effectively on mission outcomes, whether or not they “need” funds to “stay afloat” should not be how we determine who gets funded. In this atmosphere of impact and social change (with charities being gradually understood to have the role of facilitating change and not just running programs to keep their budget going) charities that deliver need to be rewarded, and not made to feel cautious about their success in making communities stronger.
The New Leaf Community Challenge is of course a part of the solution to this problem, because it does encourage this focus on “how are you changing the conditions in society that determine this problem” and not just “what do you do to make life less hard for marginalized people.” As a society we need to address BOTH simultaneously (feed starving people at the same time as we try to make sure nobody is in position to starve, for example).
In the LiveWorkPlay world of supports and services for people with intellectual disabilities, the prevention and social change aspect of solving problems is definitely well behind other sectors, and in fact, the entire dialogue makes most traditional agencies uncomfortable. But that’s OK, it still needs doing. We can’t solve the problem of people being excluded by investing further in excluding them (which is what we get from group homes and day programs, the dominant paradigm).
With this in mind, although the $125,000 is more than welcome and will be put to excellent use, the opportunity to showcase LiveWorkPlay on the leading-edge of the charitable sector (and really, we think of ourselves increasingly as being a community benefit organization not a social services organization) is greatly appreciated. Thank you to the Community Foundation of Ottawa for making this happen and for making these sorts of bold moves to get people thinking and talking about innovation and social change.