“We want to be part of the solution to promoting economic justice and thereby ending poverty in the Greater Washington DC area. There is so much of an impact that we can make here.”
— Connie K. N. Chang, Board Chairwoman & Treasurer, Lever Fund
Message from Connie
Dear Friends, Supporters, and Champions of Lever Fund,
As autumn has arrived in its impressive majesty, I am reminded once again of the importance of Lever Fund’s work. As the seasons change, we too at Lever Fund are changing and growing. This message is to update you on adjustments we made at our organization.
Who We Are – Lever Fund’s New Focus
Following a thorough review of our work and our areas of strengths and weaknesses, including gathering input from 30+ stakeholders, we have narrowed Lever Fund’s focus:
We are a philanthropic non-profit focusing on making the National Capital Region economically just by pooling and investing donor funds in programs that propel youth from low-income families toward their first well-paying job.
To some of you, this may sound familiar as we have raised funds for this purpose before under our “Jobs of Tomorrow'' campaign. At the time, this was a limited effort around one cause among many we have addressed in the past. Our strategic analysis this year has shown that we can only truly make a difference in peoples’ lives and effectively support the organizations we fund if we sharpen our focus.
We are concentrating on a small and critically important slice of the fight against poverty and injustice in our region. Combating homelessness, supporting refugees, and many other causes remain critically important, no question. However, attempting to address all of them through Lever Fund would mean spreading ourselves too thin, rendering us less effective than we can be. So, after assessing our capabilities and our passions and reviewing the local data, Lever Fund’s board has decided to focus on this one area: supporting young people on the path to their first jobs which has the potential to change the trajectory of their lives forever.
Why Youth Employment?
We know that landing that first employment with regular pay and benefits is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty. Lever Fund now invests in and partners with a network of organizations that expose 14- to 21-year-olds to real life work situations through internships, training, and networking events.
Supporting young people from low-income families in starting a decent life through a job that pays well and comes with fair social security benefits is particularly important here in the National Capital Region. A young white person in Washington, DC is 20% more likely to have a promising entry-level job than someone who is Black or Hispanic. This is an injustice we at Lever Fund are not willing to accept.
Youth born into lower-income families aren’t different from their peers from better resourced families and communities. All of our youth need to be encouraged to try hard things. They benefit from experiencing what it’s like to intern in a corporate environment with opportunities to test their own abilities. It is there that they will see how they can be good at tasks they have only just encountered.
Young people benefit from entrepreneurship training to know ideas in their head may well turn into viable products or services. Through exposure, young people learn to believe in themselves and figure out and shape the direction their lives will take. We want to see youth equipped with the drive and tenacity to graduate high school and move forward to college or further education and training to prepare themselves for 21st century jobs with good pay and benefits. That should matter to all of us. It certainly does to us.
To read more about our newly defined purpose, vision mission and brand values, please click here. I hope you will join us in our newly focused and exciting journey. We at Lever Fund are ready to open this next chapter in our growth as a philanthropic non-profit in the National Capital Region.
Wishing you a restful and joyful Happy Thanksgiving,
Connie K. N. Chang
Board Chair & Treasurer
In Our Community
On-Ramps Celebrates Success
One of our partner nonprofits, On-Ramps to Careers, recently marked their 10th Anniversary. As a funding partner, we were glad to join the celebration with On-Ramps' interns and program staff as well as other local organizations.
Since their founding, On-Ramps has created more than 1,000 STEM internship and training opportunities for Washington, DC young people and employers.
The organization recruits, trains, places, and monitors students throughout six-week STEM internships with successful employers across the local economy.
Additionally, On-Ramps develops and maintains partnerships with employers and helps them design meaningful internship experiences for students.
Award-Winning Short Film
Lever Fund was proud to sponsor a screening of the short film One Small Visit at Washington, DC's historic Avalon Theatre earlier this month. The 30-minute film captures the incredible true story about an immigrant Indian family who unexpectedly ends up on the doorstep of Neil Armstrong's home in the wake of the '69 moon landing and the civil rights movement. This film captures the importance of connection despite seeming differences and how our acceptance of our shared humanity serves us all well. Lever Fund's mission and purpose resonate with this theme and we aim to support films and other artistic endeavors that bring to life the work that we aim to do.
With a View . . . to the Future
This June we celebrated our nonprofit partners at a rooftop gathering with author and speaker Lauren Chelec Cafritz, founder of Vitality Breath. Lauren is an internationally known breathwork leader who led us in centering practices we can use any time we need to find calm. It was a beautiful evening of connection and community.
United Nations Association Hosts Panel
Chairwoman Connie K.N. Chang recently served as a panelist for an event hosted by the Swiss government and the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area. Participants focused on local application of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include ending poverty everywhere.
Solidarity in Silence
It's been one year since we hosted our nonprofit partners in Germantown, MD for a silent retreat aimed at building community, providing a time of rest and a space for reflection. Participants shared how being in solitude with their thoughts while walking 210 acres of rolling forests and fields helped them to refocus on the essence of leadership and recalibrate their relationship with a demanding job.