Children’s Discovery Museum Wins $20,000 Top Prize at ‘Desert Fast Pitch’

NPO Centric’s Annual Contest Awards $65,000 to Coachella Valley Nonprofits

Cindy Burreson, managing director of the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, won the top prize of $20,000 at this year’s ‘Desert Fast Pitch,’ the popular fundraising contest sponsored by the Regional Access Project (RAP) Foundation and presented through its key NPO Centric Program.

Cindy’s powerful pitch about developing unique programming at the Museum for children with sensory sensitivities beat five other finalists to win the annual lively competition on October 6, where the RAP Foundation awarded more than $65,000 to local nonprofits.

“Winning the $20,000 will allow the Children’s Discovery Museum to develop tools and programming to welcome and include a segment of the population that is often overlooked; those with sensory sensitivities,” said Cindy on receiving the top prize.

Other top award winners included Dana Johnson, Executive Director of Food Now, winner of the $15,000 Most Innovative Pitch, and Shannon Shea, Founder and CEO of Elder Love USA, winner of the $10,000 Audience Choice Award.

“Fast Pitch is an amazing opportunity to dive deeply into your organization to discover your “why” and develop your tool kit to deliver that messaging with the help of seasoned professionals,” said Cindy. “The Fast Pitch program allows all of the contestants the opportunity to develop friendships, gain exposure for our non-profits, and be collaborative in the future.”

Six finalists each communicated their story in a three-minute pitch for funding in front of a panel of judges and an audience of several hundred nonprofit, community, and civic leaders. In addition to the three winning nonprofits, the other finalists were ACT for Multiple Sclerosis, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Coachella Valley, and Palm Springs International Piano Competition.

In total, 12 local nonprofits participated in this year’s annual program, which included six weeks of training and mentoring with marketing and presentation coaching. Each nonprofit received $1,000 for being selected in the program, and several received additional $1,000 grants for their individual achievements.

“Our goal is to help nonprofits more effectively communicate their story in order to raise the funding they need to be self-sustaining,” said Stephanie Minor, executive consultant with NPO Centric and manager of Desert Fast Pitch. The NPO Centric program serves to strengthen, support, and build the capacity of nonprofits.

The big event also featured an inspiring keynote presentation by three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Jackie related her amazing story of growing up in a low-income neighborhood in East St. Louis to achieving international recognition as one of “the world’s greatest female athletes.” Her message of believing in yourself and not giving up especially resonated with the nonprofit leaders and the important, often difficult, work they do for our communities.

The top prize winner, the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, inspires and promotes learning and self-expression through its interactive exhibits and programming. It is currently undergoing a “reimagination” of its experiences, including expansion of its spaces and programming, and will re-open by early 2023.

“Winning Desert Fast Pitch is just one more step towards achieving our goal of re-opening the Museum in a thoughtful and significant way to meet and exceed the needs of our community while being inclusive of all children and their families,” said Cindy Burreson.

Of the other top winners, Food Now provides food assistance and support services in eastern Riverside County, and Elder Love assists older adults and their families with day-to-day activities.

Plans are already underway for next year’s Desert Fast Pitch, scheduled for Fall 2023. For more information about NPO Centric’s programs and resources, visit

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