Pitch Your Peers: Stop Apologizing, Start Pitching!
By Michele Graham
Photography by ChiChi Ubiña
Nina Lindia lights up a room. As one of the co-founders of Pitch Your Peers (PYP) – a women’s grant making organization—she makes hearts light up across Greenwich. Her vision is enthusiastic, her goals are major: today Greenwich, tomorrow the country.
It was 2015. Nina was 35 and the mother of two very little ones when she had the kernel of an idea: to launch a women’s giving collective that is run like a boardroom. Think of it as a sort of Shark Tank for charity. But rather than each nonprofit’s leadership advocating, requests would come from PYP’s own members – women who would passionately Pitch on the nonprofit’s behalf.
Nina flew the concept by her good friend and philanthropic dynamo Brooke Bohnsack. Immediately, Brooke was on board and helped flesh out the idea. Rachael LeMasters, with experience in grants and social work, came on next, followed by Dara Johnson, who brought professional financial acumen. “Convincing women like Dara, Brooke and Rachael, all of whom I respect as business women, mothers, and friends to launch PYP with me remains one of my single greatest accomplishments to date,” says Nina. “PYP is and will always be a collective effort.”
On a daily basis, all four co-founders were receiving emails from friends. “Too many of those emails started with, ‘Sorry to ask, but could you donate/participate/fund/attend X charity event.’” It made Nina think back to her days at Kaplan Test Prep and Education working with Foreign Medical Licensing. “I’d be mic-d up in front of 200 medical students doing a sales pitch and my mentor would say, ‘Ask for what you want and don’t apologize.’” This philosophy gave rise to the hashtags #stopapologizingstartpitching and #PYPup! which embody the dynamic spirit of PYP.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing to launch. “We signed the PYP Certificate of Incorporation with the IRS just two weeks before I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” recalls Nina. The women banded together while Nina was treated for early stage breast cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Friends across Old Greenwich joined with support. “If it takes a village, I am very grateful we live in this one.”
Cancer didn’t stop Nina. PYP is a mix of working and stay at home moms. Recruitment is held in the spring and is by invitation only—every new member must be nominated by an existing member. The roster of women includes college professors, physicians, PTA presidents, moms with four kids at home, and start-up CEOs and VPs.
True to the original model, pitches are everything. In fact, the nonprofits being pitched aren’t invited to Pitch Night. PYP’s chapter model is very specific to the community. Nina says that PYP’s early success is “reflective of the tremendous amount of human capital present in the philanthropic women in our town! The power of women’s collective giving is alive and well.”
Since 2016, Pitch Your Peers, Inc. has launched chapters in Greenwich, CT and in Seattle, WA, and awarded more than $250,000 in grants. National membership numbers have grown from 37 to over 170. In its first year, PYP gave $30,000 to Community Centers, Inc. and $5,500 to Kids in Crisis. Subsequent grant winners include Mothers for Others, Emily Catherine Fedorko Foundation (ECFF) for their Chimes for Emily project at Tod’s Point and the Vanishing White Matter Foundation to help a young boy in Western Greenwich battle a devastating disease.
In 2018, Nina put her pitching skills to the test and pitched with fellow breast cancer survivor, Hillary Corbin. The pair won the $45,000 top prize for Breast Cancer Alliance (BCA), which was generously matched by BCA board member Lisa Walsh. The monies were enough to fully fund the 2019 Pitch Your Peers Breast Surgery Fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where both Nina and Hillary were treated.
“To be able to come full circle as survivors and give a real, impactful gift that will help other Greenwich women treated at MSKCC is about as good as it gets. I am grateful to Hillary for Pitching with me, and to PYP for giving us a platform,” says Nina.
Nina came to Greenwich by way of Syracuse, NY and Florence, Italy. She spent most of her time stateside but traveled back and forth several times throughout her life. Along the way she met her husband Fabio, who grew up in Greenwich. She recounts, “His dream was always to come back and live in OG where all his friends grew up and were able to ride their bikes and stay out late on Sound Beach Avenue. We absolutely love our small town, and raising our children here is a delight.”
As much as Nina treasures what she and her co-founders have accomplished in four years, she sees expansion opportunities right around the corner. She notes, “I’d love to get a New Canaan/Darien/Westport chapter going. And NYC has long been a goal. Our Seattle chapter hit the ground running better and faster than we did when we started out as a lone chapter, and I love all that we learn from them. We hope as we gain more traction, we’ll see more chapters emerge across the country.”
And yet, Nina also finds time to help charitable causes outside of PYP. She supports B*Cured and its work on brain cancer, is getting active with the Bruce Contemporaries, and is co-chairing this year’s Breast Cancer Alliance Luncheon and Fashion Show.
Putting her education (Nina holds a Masters in International Education from NYU) and career skills (“I will always be grateful for my time at Kaplan; that’s where I learned not only how to speak publicly but also to love it.”) to good use is a natural for Nina. She counsels women who are apologetic about asking for donations or grants, “The benefit of pitching is always present even if the big money goes home to someone else …don’t say, ‘no amount is too small!’ Go for the big money for the cause you believe in. Stop apologizing, start Pitching!”