What is SEED20?

Created by Social Venture Partners (SVP), the annual SEED20 program identifies, highlights and connects the community to our region’s most innovative ideas for tackling pressing social challenges. These innovations can be developed by:

  • An individual or start up with a well-formed idea
  • An emerging nonprofit
  • A well-established nonprofit with a new program

Each year, over the course of two months, a class of twenty nonprofit participants receives training, coaching, feedback, and mentoring on how to succinctly and powerfully tell their story – who they are and why they matter. These efforts culminate in SEED20 OnStage, a high-energy event where ten members of the class compete to win cash awards by making three-minute pitches to a panel of judges and a community audience. SEED20 OnStage includes a celebration before and after the pitches where the audience can interact and connect with all twenty nonprofits to learn more about their mission and opportunities for support and engagement.

SEED20’s mission is to promote the power of social innovation.

  • We believe in the power of social innovation to unleash breakthrough ideas that creatively 
attack tough social challenges. 

  • We connect innovative people and organizations to funders, to one another, and to the broader Charlotte region. 

  • We empower nonprofits with the skills and confidence to tell their stories in ways that inspire people to act. 

  • We educate the community about pressing social issues and organizations that are dedicated to addressing them. 

Social Venture Partners is a nonprofit organization passionately attacking the issue of social and economic inequality in Charlotte through venture philanthropy. Our vision is that through SEED20, the Charlotte region will be a community that embraces our nonprofit entrepreneurs, providing them with a supportive environment to innovate. The SEED20 program, the OnStage event, and alumni activities are all coordinated by Social Venture Partners’ staff and volunteer members.

Alumni Network

To the audience of the SEED20 OnStage event, our program might seem like just one inspiring evening. But after the party is over, the checks have been cashed, and everyone has gone home, this year’s SEED20 participants become members of the SEED20 Alumni Network! All SEED20 participants are welcome in the network and can use the opportunity to find collaborators, mentors, and partners. As the steward of the Alumni Network, Social Venture Partners offers multiple workshops each year for the enrichment of the alums. These sessions address a wide variety of topics including an “Ask a Lawyer” night, tips on fundraising practices, and seminars on understanding leadership styles or Board development.

Ask a Lawyer night is a great example of alumni benefits. Seeking advice from attorneys is often intimidating and potentially expensive. The opportunity to meet with the lawyers from McGuireWoods…helped us answer many of our questions.

Dick Sesler, Camp Blue Skies, SEED20 Class of 2014

More About Social Venture Partners

Social Venture Partners (SVP) is a global network of strategic philanthropists helping to strengthen high-impact organizations that are attacking social and economic inequality in Charlotte.  SVP invests through venture philanthropy, a model of giving where its members (Partners) not only provide grants, but also invest their collective expertise and time to support  a carefully selected portfolio of nonprofits with the greatest potential to remove barriers to upward mobility.

SVP fuels nonprofit innovation in the community in two distinct ways:

  • Deep, multi-year investments of financial and human resources in a select number of promising nonprofits called Investees.
  • The annual SEED20 program.

To learn more, please visit www.socialventurepartners.org/charlotte/.


Read more about the SEED20 program and the annual SEED20 OnStage showcase.

What does SEED20 stand for?

In an effort to empower and support nonprofits tackling some of this area’s toughest problems and to contribute to the innovative, vibrant culture in our region, Social Venture Partners (SVP) created the annual SEED20 program for social entrepreneurs. SEED stands for Social Entrepreneurs EmpowereD. The “20” represents the twenty organizations or individuals who are selected to participate.

What is the mission of SEED20?

The mission of SEED20 is to promote the power of social innovation.

  • We believe in the power of social innovation to unleash breakthrough ideas that creatively 
attack tough social challenges. 

  • We connect innovative people and organizations to funders, to one another, and to the broader Charlotte region.
  • We empower nonprofits with the skills and confidence to tell their stories in ways that inspire people to act. 

  • We educate the community about pressing social issues and organizations that are dedicated to addressing them. 

Who organizes SEED20?

The SEED20 program is an initiative of Social Venture Partners (SVP). SVP works in conjunction with our community sponsors to deliver this program.

What will happen at SEED20 OnStage?

The event begins with a Happy Hour where guests can grab a drink and dinner and mingle with the twenty nonprofit participants in this year’s class. The OnStage program consists of ten inspiring three-minute pitches by some of the Charlotte region’s most innovative thinkers, a chance for community judges and the audience to select award winners from the finalists, and concludes with an After Party where attendees can have dessert and drinks while engaging with the nonprofit participants and each other. To see a highlight video from a past event, click here.

Who should attend SEED20 OnStage?

Everyone! Anyone interested in learning about and supporting innovation in the social sector in the Charlotte region should attend SEED20 OnStage. Our event will bring together people from the business, government, academic, and nonprofit worlds who want to support the development of a social enterprise culture in our area.

How can I attend SEED20 OnStage?

Interested in attending SEED20 OnStage? Be the first to find out when tickets go on sale here.

I heard there is reserved seating... what does that mean?

In past years SEED20 has been a general admission event, so you secured your seat when the doors opened. Now, when you purchase your tickets, you’ll select a specific seat. So, first, reach out to your friends and colleagues and be sure to purchase your tickets early for the most availability. Then, when you attend, enjoy the extended Happy Hour before the live event! With reserved seating, you don’t have to rush into the auditorium to grab your seat.

What is a Cultivator?

Cultivators provide financial support for SEED20 by donating $1,000 and get to enjoy an enhanced OnStage experience. Please click here if you are interested in more details.

Is SEED20 OnStage a fundraiser?

No. Social Venture Partners is a nonprofit organization and SEED20 is a program of Social Venture Partners. The funds from sponsor donations and ticket sales go to running the program, the alumni network, and the cash prizes that are awarded to the nonprofit participants.

How does the program work?

The application period occurs in the fall each year. All applications will be reviewed by a Selection Committee from Social Venture Partners. The Selection Committee will invite twenty organizations to participate based on the following criteria:

  • Potential for Sustainable Impact: Does this idea/program/organization address an important social issue? Is it already having, or likely to have, a significant long-term impact?
  • Innovation: Is this idea/program/organization novel, unique, and entrepreneurial?

Participants will attend an Orientation and Pitch Workshop and have approximately two weeks to prepare for the first coaching session. Participants will attend three group coaching sessions and receive one-on-one mentoring after each coaching session. This process will help them distill the key elements of their mission, approach, impact, and needs into a three-minute pitch. They will have access to valuable strategic advice and resources, and will have the opportunity to cultivate ongoing relationships. The class will also attend a professional photo and video shoot, which will yield marketing assets for each participant.

The Selection Committee will select ten finalists to make pitches at SEED20 OnStage and compete for cash awards. All members of the SEED20 Class are eligible for at least one award.

What kind of training do the participants receive?

The formal training process typically spans two months and culminates in the SEED20 OnStage event in the spring. During this time, participants have access to valuable strategic advice to help them strengthen their ideas/organizations, and will have the opportunity to cultivate ongoing relationships and other resources. There are three aspects to the training program:

  • Pitch Workshop: The SEED20 Class, along with their coaches, will participate in a workshop to learn about the key elements of an effective pitch. There will also be time for Q&A, and for explaining more details about the program.
  • Group Coaching Sessions: Participants will practice their pitch in front of a group of volunteer coaches from the community who will provide immediate verbal and written feedback on their pitches.
  • Individual Coaching Sessions: Participants will be assigned a team of two or more volunteer coaches and a college student ambassador who will assist them in distilling the feedback and refining their pitches into a crisp three-minute presentation. These one-on-one sessions will take place after each group coaching session and may also be scheduled between sessions.

What is a three-minute pitch?

A three-minute pitch is a high-energy, fast-moving, compelling presentation in which entrepreneurs share the mission, vision, promise and model of their idea – all in three minutes! Presenters will be trained to tell their story in a succinct, compelling, polished, and passionate way that inspires people to act.

Why is there so much emphasis on a pitch?

Ideas become reality when they can be communicated persuasively and efficiently. We want to help innovative nonprofits hone their pitches so they can succinctly and powerfully paint a picture that best drives excitement for their ideas.