Rabbi Bentzion Groner wears many hats in the Charlotte Jewish community, including his roles at Friendship Circle and Talmud Torah.
But it is his role as Director of ZABS Place that earned him a coveted spot in SEED20, a communications training and pitch competition program created by Charlotte’s Social Venture Partners.
SEED stands for Social Entrepreneurs EmpowereD. The “20” represents the twenty organizations or individuals who are selected to participate because of their innovative ideas for tackling pressing social challenges in the Charlotte region. Groner will be one of those 20 this year. Over the course of two months, he will join a class of twenty nonprofit participants to receive training, coaching, feedback, and mentoring on how to succinctly and powerfully tell his organization’s story.
These efforts culminate in SEED20 OnStage at the Knight Theater on April 16, 2018. This is 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. The audience is treated to a pre- and post- reception and also votes to select the $20,000 grand prize winner.
ZABS Place is a non-denominational, nonprofit, upscale thrift boutique and employment training center for young adults with special needs in Matthews, NC. The training and experience serves as a stepping stone to future employment opportunities. “It’s the intersection of the for-profit and nonprofit world. It operates like a business, but the business operates for a cause,” explains Groner.
He was drawn to apply to SEED20 because he sees a similarity to the ZABS Place model in that the program links entrepreneurism, commonly associated with the for-profit sector, with nonprofits. “This divide should not exist. Nonprofits are funded by donors, but they are entrepreneurs too. Entrepreneurialism is the future of the nonprofit sector.”
“All business principals apply to nonprofits, but the business world can learn from nonprofits too. Real success for any business comes when your goals are beyond money. They come from being cause driven. It motivates you as a leader and it motivates people to rally around you. SEED20 shines a spotlight on nonprofit entrepreneurs and connects concepts from the business world to the nonprofit world in order to address social challenges in our community.”
The community component is also very important to Groner, who grew up in Charlotte. “There are other national programs for nonprofits, but SEED20 is local. Because it’s focused on our community, it gives me an extra boost of inspiration.”
While Groner looks forward to the work he will do on fine-tuning the ZABS place story, he feels that has already benefited from the program. He even enjoyed the SEED20 application process.
“They zero in on getting to the personality of your organization, forcing you to avoid corporate-speak and clichés and get to the nuts and bolts of your work. Thinking through the different scenario-based questions really forced me to think about my organization in new ways and I enjoyed that.”