Five Questions for Mark Swartz

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Map of the Washington DC Metro Area

The Board of Directors recently named you Managing Director. What does that mean?

I appreciate the vote of confidence, but essentially my job remains the same—leveraging the board’s personal and professional networks to build support for some of the most effective nonprofits in D.C., northern Virginia, and suburban Maryland.

What experience do you bring to the position?

My consulting practice, which continues alongside my part-time Lever Fund responsibilities, involves working with nonprofit leaders on how they tell their stories. The options have multiplied for foundations and philanthropists. How do you stand out? In addition, my time as Senior Manager of Communications at the Robin Hood Foundation continues to guide my Lever Fund work, though we have learned not to try and replicate Robin Hood.

Why not?

D.C. is not New York. You wouldn’t believe how many people have told us that. Moreover, even though regional consciousness is on the rise, we’re still dealing with three distinct geographic identities. Nevertheless, the DMV has plenty of people with the capacity and desire to help our neighbors in need—as well as the nonprofits that can change their lives. Robin Hood’s metrics remain at the heart of what we do, even if we’re not throwing galas with world-famous pop stars.

What’s the plan for the rest of the year?

We’re holding a series of intimate dinners to connect our friends to the organizations we believe in. Each event will offer the opportunity to double your donation through matching dollars. The nonprofits we’re featuring through our Jobs of Tomorrow campaign have got it all—great leadership, compelling stories,  measurable impact. When you support the Lever Fund, you’re investing in our community and our economy.  And just like Robin Hood, the board pays the overhead, so 100% of contributions flow directly to the cause.

What motivates you to do this work?

I’m inspired by the commitment of the board members to launch a startup that will truly make a difference. It’s not as if they don’t have busy enough lives already. They could use their philanthropic dollars and hours in so many other ways. Also, this is my first time working with others to build something from scratch, so I’m learning a lot. Finally, as a writer, I’m always on the lookout for fresh perspectives. The Lever Fund allows me to get to know people with much bigger homes than mine—and people with no home at all.