Debbie Stephens, director of marketing and development for the Payson Senior Center, won the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at Maricopa Community Colleges’ second Fundraising Academy Pitch Contest on Wednesday, March 20.

Stephens’ pitch presentation focused on the organization’s new building, which will allow them to extend their programs and services beyond what they can provide in their current space. The organization is currently in escrow with a 2-acre parcel of land and hopes to fund their new center with a naming donation as well as additional donations from individuals and businesses.

As the winner of the pitch contest, Stephens and the Payson Senior Center will receive a free, full-page ad in AZ Big Media’s Az Business Angels magazine.

The contest was part of the Institute’s Fundraising Academy, an 80-hour fundraising training program designed to provide nonprofit professionals with the skills they need to make a larger impact in their communities. Pitch participants included board members, development professionals, and executive directors from 9 local nonprofit organizations.

Using the skills learned throughout the Fundraising Academy, each participant created a 1-minute pitch video about their nonprofit. The top three organizations that received the most views, likes, and shares on Facebook moved on to the live pitch on Wednesday.

The final contestants were: April Dickerson and Erin Soto of Recovery Empowerment Network (REN), Martin Muganzi of Youth Rising International, and Debbie Stephens of the Payson Senior Center. At the live pitch, each of these nonprofit professionals made a 3-minute pitch to a distinguished panel of judges including: Michael Gossie, editor-in-chief of AZ Big Media, Alfredo Molina, chairman and CEO of Molina Fine Jewelers and Black, Starr & Frost, Wendy Owens, development manager of Catholic Charities and last year’s pitch contest winner, and Nicole Stanton, former managing partner of Quarles & Brady LLP.

To view all of the pitch videos and the Facebook Live video from the event, visit For more information about the Fundraising Academy, visit