Victory Cup Initiative Gives to the Givers

Learn how the Victory Cup Initiative uplifts nonprofits.

Two people holding a large check. The man is smiling and the woman is hiding her face.

A Life-Changing Idea to Bring Communities Together

Today, Feb.1, the 9th Annual Victory Cup Initiative Storytelling Showcase distributed $175,000 (and counting) in unrestricted funding to 10 local nonprofits that competed for their fair share of unrestricted funding and services. 

This year’s nonprofits, including Central Florida Vocal Arts, Commission 127, Community Legal Services, Conservation Florida, Elevation Scholars, Family Promise, Franklin’s Friends, Shepherd’s Hope, Special Hearts Farm, and The VERB Kind had 150 seconds to share their story with an audience of locals and business leaders at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.  The 600-seat event was sold out. 

This was the first time that Brevard County nonprofits had a chance to participate in the annual event that brings together nonprofits in need with the time, talent, and treasure of our community. 

Founder and Executive Director of Victory Cup Initiative Ashley Vann says she got the idea to create Victory Cup when she learned more about fundraising for nonprofits through workshops at the Edyth Bush Foundation back in 2015. 

“I’ve always had a passion for helping people find a mission or cause they cared about. But sometimes they’re just too busy and don’t know where to begin,” Vann, a married mother of three who lives in Winter Park, says.  

The Victory Cup Initiative Uplifting Nonprofits

What makes Victory Cup special is that it doesn’t hand out funding to nonprofits itself. Instead, it helps nonprofit leaders tell their stories, get clear about their numbers, and coach them on how to pitch their nonprofit to a room full of donors. But before that even happens, each of the approximately 75 nonprofits that apply gets thoroughly reviewed over a number of months by an estimated 150 Victory Cup volunteer community evaluators, who then whittle that number down to just 10 nonprofits who will get to present. 

The Story Behind 8 Cents in a Jar

Founder and Executive Director of 8 Cents in a Jar Lashea Reaves won Victory Cup 2022. “We are a grassroots nonprofit. Without Victory Cup leadership helping us, we would not be where we are today,” Reaves says.  

8 cents in a Jar CEO holding check she received as a winner of Victory Cup 2023.

Reaves’ story and 8 Cents in a Jar’s focus are unique. Reaves’ father had passed away while she was in college. Only then did she find out that her father had stolen her identity and racked up large amounts of debt in her name. As the guardian of her younger sister and a student on a scholarship, it was difficult to know where to turn to make ends meet and deal with the legal issues surrounding her financial problems. Through educating herself and getting the help she needed, she found that financial fraud and identity theft in low-income families or those living in poverty were more common than she or the larger community were aware of.   

“We aim to teach students, as young as elementary school, how to not just be financially literate, but make better choices, stop the cycle and have more stable futures,” Reaves says. “It isn’t just a family problem, it’s a community problem, and so we must have a community solution through awareness, education, and putting what they learn into practice.” 

What Winning Victory Cup Means 

Ashley Vann hugging LaShea Reaves, the CEO if 8 cents in a Jar who won Victory Cup 2023.

Reaves says once her nonprofit was selected as one of the 10 to present at Victory Cup 2023, she met with master storytellers, financial experts, and nonprofit and corporate giving professionals who coached her on how to tell 8 Cents in Jar’s story… in just two and half minutes. Part of her presentation was explaining the nonprofit’s name. “When I went to the bank after I found out my identity was stolen, I had only eight cents left. I just threw them in a jar. No one thinks of pennies as having any value. But when you do that and just keep putting a little bit more and a little bit more in there, it eventually adds up,” Reaves says.  

9th Annual Victory Cup Initiative

Photo of Victory Cup Initiative Group

This year’s participants will now share their life-changing stories. The Victory Cup Initiative planned to distribute $75,000 in unrestricted funds and professional services, but instead…

  • Each organization walked away with no less than $25,000 (and counting)
  • Jayne and Tom Sittema and the Devine Family Foundation announced they will match any donations collected today
  • Each nonprofit went home with a new iPad from Aeras Technologies 

And the Victory Cup Goes to…

Participants of the 9th Annual Victory Cup Initiative

  • 1st Place: $75k – The Verb Kind (https://www.theverbkind.com) is a unique and powerful mentoring program that reaches the youth inside the walls of a juvenile detention center and gives them a second chance through mentoring, education, and connecting them with community resources.
  • 2nd Place: $50k – Commission 127 strengthens and supports foster, adoptive and biological families in crisis by creating community and equipping churches to launch and lead Family Advocacy Ministries.
  • 3rd Place: $45k – Special Hearts Farm serves individuals with disabilities and unique abilities by providing adult day training, supported employment, and possible entrepreneur business opportunities related to farming and gardening experiences.

“I feel like I  just won American Idol – this is amazing!” said Haley Hunt, Executive Director of The Verb Kind. Victory Cup gives us the opportunity to be seen. So many people don’t know the hard work that goes on behind the scenes! I’m so grateful!” 

Nonprofits, corporate sponsors, donors, and other interested individuals are encouraged to visit www.victorycupiniative.org to get information on applications, becoming a volunteer community evaluator, and deadlines for next year’s event. 

“This morning, people from all over the region got the chance to hear from our community’s heroes. They got to hear their stories of impact and how they make a difference in the lives of many. The art of storytelling is worth millions for these nonprofits,” said Vann. 

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Written by Tarre Beach

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