On July 9, the board unanimously elected Tim Lee as chair. Here, he shares his vision and passion for our work.
Your venture capital firm, the Sabotage Institute, partners with entrepreneurs and invests in startups. How does that connect with what the Lever Fund does?
I see a lot of overlap in how Lever Fund approaches philanthropy and how Sabotage Institute approaches investing. With both models, we are relentlessly focused on metrics and learning.
The old adage: if you watch it, it grows has been a principle that, for me, has always produced results. With Lever Fund, we’re singularly focused on finding organizations that have found a model for philanthropic investment that produces a multiple on the capital they receive from grantors like us.
Why did you get involved in the Lever Fund?
When I look around at the talent, prosperity and wealth of our region, I am inspired. However, I’m also appalled by the breadth of disparity between most of our neighbors and those who have been less fortunate. It shocked me to learn that there are more than 400k people in the DMV region living at or below the poverty line. We will change that for the better.
What goals do you have as chair?
Unleashing the energy and commitment of our board is a primary goal. Continuing to increase the impact we have on our region’s economy in a meaningful way. The board is the wellspring of that—not just our money but our social and imaginative capital.
What about the Lever Fund brand?
We can increase our visibility—not building a brand for the sake of building a brand, but as a way of catching the attention of entrepreneurs who are just testing the waters of philanthropy. Last year we had a dinner with Mark Bezos, who used to lead the communications, marketing, and events team at Robin Hood, and he pointed out the difference between a New York City-based brand and what we’re developing here, in a region with a less cohesive character. On the othr hand, this is the nation's capital. That's huge, right?
What has been your greatest Lever experience so far?
Last summer I got to meet some of the rising high school seniors of Genesys Works, just before they started their internships. They had researched my company and came prepared with questions. I told them they had to commit 100 percent to their internships, and they showed me they were already there. That’s when I realized the companies who hire them are getting the best out of that deal.