A “pitch” verbally outlines an idea in a short period of time for the purpose of securing support or funding. As a special event for its 25th anniversary, the Blackburn Institute is applying this concept to civic projects organized by Fellows for the benefit of the state of Alabama. At the 2019 Annual Symposium (August 23-24, 2019), Fellows will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas for civic engagement activities and be eligible for funding totaling $20,000.


Only Fellows of the Blackburn Institute are eligible to submit proposals and pitch for funding. Proposals may be submitted by individual Fellows or teams of Fellows, but only one representative may pitch the project in the competition. Students with ideas should consider the Daniel Community Scholars Program as a funding option. Unless also a Fellow, neither Advisory Board members nor Blackburn Society members are eligible to apply apply. Fellows are limited to involvement in one proposal, although they may participate in the selected project after the conclusion of the competition.


The scope of the competition is deliberately broad to allow for a wide range of civic engagement activities, such as direct service, community-based research, public policy, political engagement, social entrepreneurship, activism or advocacy, or philanthropic giving or fundraising . For the purposes of this competition, political engagement must be non-partisan (i.e. not aligned with a political party). Fellows must be primary leaders and organizers of projects, but the activities may be personal projects or those done in collaboration with employers, faith communities, civic organizations, or other entities. Civic projects must align with the mission of the Blackburn Institute:

The mission of the Blackburn Institute is to develop a network of diverse leaders who understand the challenges facing the state of Alabama and the nation and who are committed to serving as agents of positive change.

In order to accomplish this, Fellows must demonstrate:

  • Deep knowledge and understanding of a challenge through data that support a need or gap in services or policy;
  • A personal commitment to action, as well as a commitment to engage others;
  • A thorough plan of strategic action; and
  • A plan to measure and document the change achieved.

Competition Prizes

  • First Place – $10,000
  • Second Place – $5,000
  • Third and Fourth Places – $2,000
  • Fifth and Sixth Places – $500

Any tax liability to a Fellow or other entity that results from the awarding of a prize is the sole responsibility of the receiving Fellow or entity. Upon notification of winning an award, the Fellow will be invited to meet with the director of the Blackburn Institute to review options for the release or use of funding.

Competition Format

The competition will consist of three rounds, including a written proposal, semi-final pitch round, and final pitch round.

Written Proposal

Written proposals must be submitted electronically via a Qualtrics form no later than 11:59pm on Sunday, June 30, 2019.  A .pdf version of the form is provided for planning purposes, but proposals may only be submitted through the Qualtrics form. Only complete applications, with all required fields filled and attachments submitted, will be accepted for review.

Written proposals generally align with the expectations of the Daniel Community Scholars Program, with some modifications. Fellows must document the challenge they intend to address, identify any relevant partners, establish a detailed plan of action (including a realistic timeline), and present a fiscally responsible budget.

Ten projects will be selected to advance to the Semi-Final Pitch Round, with notification to all Fellows by email by 11:59pm on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.

Semi-Final Pitch Round

This round will take place on Friday, August 23, 6:45-7:45pm, at the Alabama Museum of Natural History on the campus of The University of Alabama. Fellows may not change their overall concept or idea from the original written proposal submitted. Each Fellow will be assigned to a 6-minute time block that will consist of a 3-minute pitch and a 3-minute question and answer session with the judges. Fellows may use PowerPoint, visual aids, props, or other items during their pitch, but none are necessary.

Two projects will be selected to advance to the Final Pitch Round, with notification to all Fellows by 10:00pm on Friday, August 23. Judges will announce the winners of the third through sixth place winner at this time.

Final Pitch Round

This round will take place on Saturday, August 24 during lunch, 12:00-2:00pm, at the Ferguson Student Center Ballroom. The format remain the same as the prior round, with a 3-minute pitch and a 3-minute question and answer session with the judges.

The first and second place winners will be announced at the community dinner on Saturday, August 24, 6:30-9:00pm, at the Tuscaloosa River Market.

Conditions and Restrictions of Funding

As a condition of submission, Fellows agree to register for the 2019 Annual Symposium, minimally attending the Civic Project Pitch Competition on Friday night (Semi-Final Pitch Round), lunch on Saturday (Final Pitch Round), and dinner on Saturday (announcement of first and second place winners). Note that free registration is available until 11:59pm on May 15, 2019.

As a condition of funding, winners agree to:

  • Submit quarterly written updates on progress and use of funds;
  • Submit a final written report on the project, including an assessment of impact and financial accounting; and
  • Present at the 2020 or 2021 Annual Symposium (first through fourth place winners), with up to $250 in travel reimbursements available per award.

Projects may not use any funding:

  • That, In the sole judgment of the director of the Blackburn Institute, are in conflict with Institute’s vision, mission, or values or the rules of the competition or present a conflict of interest for the Institute or the Fellow;
  • For salary or wages of any individual;
  • To provide a personal financial benefit to a Fellow;
  • For explicit support of a specific political party;
  • To sub-contact substantial work of the project to another party;
  • To violate any policy of The University of Alabama or laws of the State of Alabama or other jurisdiction in which the project takes place.

Decisions and Changes to Rules

While no changes are expected, the Blackburn Institute reserves the right to alter or clarify rules at its discretion. Every attempt will be made to comply with the published rules at all times. All decisions of the Blackburn Institute and the judges are final.

Confidentiality and Intellectual Property

Confidentiality of proposals is not guaranteed and should not be expected. If a Fellow wishes to keep any element of their proposal confidential, it should not be included in the pitch. There is no way for the Blackburn Institute to enforce a prohibition against other competitors, audience members, and/or judges who hear a pitch from sharing the information with others.

By participating in the Civic Project Pitch Competition, Fellows agree that the Blackburn Institute and all related parties, including The University of Alabama and The University of Alabama System, assume no liability and shall have no liability or obligation for disclosures of information provided by a Fellow as part of a submission or pitch during the competition. Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are neither required nor allowed.