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Foreign aid is often in the hot seat, but today the heat is cranked up especially high.

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Speed-Dating Sponsors

A smart new way to surface great ideas

SVP Fast Pitch is a clever way to connect early-stage non-profits and social entrepreneurs with potential funders.

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I’m a big believer in finding innovative ways to fund projects that fight poverty and disease and improve lives. For example, the (RED) Campaign donates up to half of the profits from specially branded consumer products like skateboards and tennis shoes to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

In addition to international efforts like (RED), innovative funding is also being done at the local level. Last October I wrote about SVP Fast Pitch, a clever way to connect early-stage non-profits and social entrepreneurs with potential funders. It brings together people with promising ideas, gives them coaching on how to improve their pitch, and then hosts a series of events where they compete for funding from sponsors. Competitions like this have been held in cities around the United States and in Canada. They’re a bit like American Idol. Even the people who don’t win still benefit by getting valuable advice from experts.

Last year’s competitions surfaced some promising ideas. For example, Corengi, a Seattle-based web site that matches patients with clinical trials looking for participants, won $55,000 in seed funding.  Clinical trials are a key part of developing advances in medicine, but the average trial in the U.S. is delayed by more than four months because it’s so hard to find and recruit patients. In less than three years, Corengi has helped thousands of patients identify clinical trials that might be a good fit.

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The deadline for the latest round of SVP Fast Pitch in Seattle is coming up on July 1 (here is the application). They also need people interested in mentoring the contestants. If you’re not in the Puget Sound area, I’d encourage you to find out whether there’s a similar event in your community, and if it doesn’t already exist, you might consider starting one. It could be a fun, rewarding way to support the constant stream of innovation we need to solve big challenges in the United States and around the world.