A Letter From Lever Fund’s Board

Dear Friends, 

We hope that you and your loved ones are doing as well as possible in these turbulent times. For Lever Fund, the COVID-19 crisis has been disruptive, but we’re working hard to continue to make a difference, for today and tomorrow. We have pivoted to respond to the urgent needs of the moment while staying true to our mission. 

In the spirit of transparency, we want to share our strategy for the next 18 months, which includes our Jobs of Tomorrow campaign update, workforce development convenings, a storytelling campaign, and more. 

What We Know About Poverty

We know that poverty is sticky. It is difficult to overcome and exists across boundaries—in our rural and suburban communities as well as our cities. That’s why, at Lever Fund, we're focused on pathways for moving people permanently out of poverty, no matter where they live, in addition to preventing people from falling into poverty in the first place. 

Read more about what the research and data tell us about poverty.

Due to the complex nature of poverty, our collective approach in this region writ large must be integrated (stacking interventions) and follow a lifecycle approach. We have learned that promising poverty interventions include advancing the social-emotional health, school readiness/inclusion, workforce preparation, and social capital expansion of our young people. Other important initiatives include policing/prison reforms, fatherhood and mentoring programs, and support for mothers/other caregivers. 

Workforce Development Focus

We believe that everyone who is willing and able to work should have access to a path to a good job. As a community, we must not only work to improve our schools and reduce employment discrimination; we must also build the training and social capital pathways that offer the chance to connect people who are looking for or out of work with employers who sometimes cannot find the workers they need. As important, we can and must transform jobs with low wages, unstable work hours, and limited/no benefits into good ones that offer a living wage and upward mobility.

Findings from the Social Genome Model Project, organized by the Urban Institute, Brookings Institution and Child Trends, reveal that talent development among 14-18 year olds has a lifetime significant income effect. Additionally, certificate programs for 18-24 year olds are a very strong intervention. A study of workforce development and low-income adults by the Urban Institute reports that on the job training and career pathways interventions show promising results for low-income adults and return on investments for employers. At Lever Fund, we are targeting these types of interventions for youth and adults in our Jobs of Tomorrow campaign

Our Jobs of Tomorrow campaign identifies and supports nonprofits and startups with exceptional leaders who have creative solutions for the training, reskilling, professional/personal development, and access to social capital that will move low-income people into good 21st century jobs. 

Read more about the Jobs of Tomorrow campaign.

Our 18-Month Strategy

Over the next 18 months, Lever Fund’s key activities will be: 

  • Focus collaborative philanthropy. We will continue our Jobs of Tomorrow Campaign with a special focus on the emergency relief funds needed for our nonprofit partners to remain in business and deliver on their missions. 
  • Produce expert investment analysis and reporting. We will continue to deliver sound metrics, emphasize genuine impact, and forecast returns on investment—while keeping investors informed every step of the way.
  • Highlight the work and leadership of our nonprofit partners. We will remain in close touch with our grantees, and will elevate the unique issues they face and how they are tackling the “new normal.” 
  • Convene workforce development leaders. We will host conversations across jurisdictions to leverage data and knowledge for helping people move out of poverty, finding synergies and locating our true north in the region.
  • Scout for promising interventions. We will research the trends, technology shifts, nonprofits, and startups that have the potential to positively impact the workforce development space. 
  • Launch storytelling campaign. We will humanize and celebrate the stories of people who have overcome poverty, with an honest look at the real nature of poverty and how the poor react to incentives.

Thank you for all the ways you partner with Lever Fund to help create a Greater Washington region in which everyone has the opportunity to make a good living. In the weeks to come, during this defining global and local challenge, we look forward to hearing your ideas and sharing more of our work with you.

With warmest wishes,
Connie K.N. Chang

Board Chair 
on behalf of The Lever Fund Board of Directors