Washington D.C. — Today, as the Greater Washington DC region unites to kick off the season of giving, the Lever Fund announces its first investments in three high-performance, high-impact nonprofit organizations in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. All three groups are providing life-changing educational and job opportunities for our low-income DMV neighbors, and reflect the Lever Fund’s ambitious and innovative metrics-oriented approach to fighting poverty.
Eleven of the 21 wealthiest counties in the United States are in the Washington Metro Area—including Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun, Montgomery, and Howard Counties. But despite the vast wealth in our region, more than 430,000 DMV residents live below the federal poverty level—ranging from an annual income of $11,880 for an individual to $32,580 for a family of six—and 1 million people are enduring lives of chronic financial instability.
The Lever Fund is working to move our DMV neighbors from poverty to opportunity. The Fund finds, funds, and scales our region’s best local technology, workforce development, education, and training nonprofits, only investing in the most effective nonprofits and carefully tracking performance and sharing results. The approach appeals to a new generation of philanthropic leaders because the Lever Fund selects investments based on solid business principles, and helps move people out of poverty. This allows emerging DMV philanthropists to increase the impact of their social change dollars by joining with other donors to make investments in the most effective nonprofits.
“It’s a ton of work, but after hundreds of hours of research—as well as evaluation meetings with high- performing nonprofits in our region—we have selected three excellent organizations for our first investments: Genesys Works National Capital Region, Washington Parks & People, and Family Services Inc.,” said Greg Cork, Executive Director of the Lever Fund.
Genesys Works National Capital Region changes the life trajectory of disadvantaged high school students by enabling them to work in meaningful, paid internships at major corporations during their senior year in high school and is partnering with Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.
Washington Parks & People’s Green Corps Program connects unemployed men and women to “green” career tracks, such as urban community forestry and watershed restoration, though some Green Corps graduates seek and secure jobs in other professionally satisfying careers.
Family Services, Inc., Keys to Success Program breaks the cycle of poverty by supporting middle and high school students, 71 percent of whom are Latino, who are pregnant or parenting as they move toward high school graduation and self-sufficiency in the Gaithersburg area of Montgomery County.
“This is a new way to address the growing wage and opportunity gap in our region. It appeals to me because it applies the same principles to investing in local nonprofits as I do to running my business, using data and research to drive my decision making,” said Ann Marie Habershaw, Lever Fund Founder and Board Member and COO of Bully Pulpit Interactive.
“I was looking for something that was not part of the philanthropic landscape in the DMV until now, an approach to fighting poverty that looks for successful models and helps them scale up to reach more people,” said Tim Lee, CEO of Sabotage Institute, a venture capital enterprise, and Managing Director of Empower Investments, a private equity firm.