Leadership Miami philanthropists pitch to the “Sharks” at FIU Brickell event.

Leadership Miami

Mixing charity, competition and celebration, Leadership Miami put a group of young philanthropists to the test at its annual Connecting for a Cause charity fundraiser at FIU Downtown on Brickell.

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce event, held on January 22, 2015 and sponsored by the College of Business’ MBA programs, was a proving ground for seven teams, each representing a charity project. Each team’s mission: convince a panel of five “sharks” that their philanthropic cause was the most worthy of a $2,000 first place or $500 second place seed funding award, sponsored by TD Bank.

Jose Aldrich, vice dean of the College of Business and a Leadership Miami graduate, welcomed the participants to FIU Brickell and served as one of the sharks.

Leadership Miami event

Matthew Maffai, chair of Leadership Miami, explained the format. Teams of two or three individuals representing each charity were to go into the tank, an FIU classroom, where five Miami business and civic leaders – aka, the Sharks – awaited them. Each team had two minutes to pitch their project and explain how they would put the money to use, and how team members would involve themselves personally to make the project successful.

Reception guests get a “live” look at the competition.

While cameras rolled in the Shark Tank, over 150 Leadership Miami participants and their friends networked and nibbled on appetizers in the nearby reception room. They also watched the presentations live on giant screens via FIU’s classroom capture technology, a new feature of this year’s program. Each team brought its own network to the event, with guests’ admission fees benefitting the team they chose.

Leadership Miami event at FIU

While many presenters were jittery in their pre-tank moments, each team sailed through the presentation as well as the sharks’ four-minute question-and-answer session that followed. Afterwards, they praised the sharks for well-informed, pertinent questions with little bite.

“They were more like dolphins,” said George Abbott of the Knight Foundation, one of the participants.

At the end of the evening, Felipe Basulto, TD Bank’s retail market manager for Miami-Dade, who led the judging, announced the winners. The grand prize went to Sunnyside Up, benefitting Lotus House, and second place went to Miami Matters, working on behalf of the Chapman Partnership.

Leadership Miami participants

Rounding up the shark panel were Fernando Figueredo, director of career management services at FIU; Steve Nudelberg, principal thinker at On the Ball Marketing, and Juan C. Zapata, Miami Dade County Commissioner, District 11. At the end of the evening, Commissioner Zapata surprised the teams by letting them know his district would contribute $1,000 to each of their projects.

“Leadership Miami participants are some of the best and brightest of South Florida’s young professional community, individuals who want to get involved, make a difference and build Miami as a world-class city,” Aldrich said. “It’s a pleasure to bring them to FIU’s Brickell facility and introduce them to our MBA programs.”

The Leadership Miami teams:

  • 305Unite, refurbishing and revamping Switchboard Miami’s downtown office and expanding the organization’s reach;
  • Miami Rise, partnering with the Opa-Locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC) to complete part of a large-scale community transformation project;
  • Accelerate Literacy, working with the Center for Writing and Literature at Miami Dade College to advance early childhood literacy for underserved families;
  • STAMP Miami, working with History Miami to raise awareness of the county’s history and update exhibitions;
  • Level Up Miami, helping the Miami Children’s Initiative to provide Liberty City residents with a resource center and laptop lending program;
  • Sunnyside Up, working with Lotus House to women and children’s program to create an interactive community space and wellness programs;
  • Miami Matters, working with the Chapman Partnership to create sustainable employment-related programs for their clients.

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Thank you for covering this important event! It was a pleasure to also meet you! My best wishes and Happy Thanksgiving!

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