The Challenge

The Lever Fund makes strategic investments in transformational, high-performance nonprofits that are poised to have the greatest impact for economically disadvantaged families in the DMV.

What We Know

  • Nearly half a million residents in the Washington, DC region live in poverty
  • In DC alone, 1:6 people and 1:4 children live in poverty

What is Also True

  • No East Coast metro area has a more affluent population
  • The DC Metro region is experiencing a 40-plus-year economic boom

Poverty is Complicated

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. 

  • Poverty is an all-encompassing pain. A person who is poor can suffer from multiple disadvantages at the same time – for example s/he may have poor physical health, lack of access to good jobs or inadequate schooling.
  • A single event can push a person into poverty. Such events include ending a relationship, losing a job or having a child and are worse for those with few assets and lower levels of formal education. 
  • Place matters. The community where a child grows up greatly influences her or his opportunities for upward mobility. In certain neighborhoods, there is a stark lack of access to opportunity and social capital.
  • Family stability and belonging matter. The chances of upward social mobility are lower for children with parents struggling to do a good job – in terms of creating a supportive and stimulating home environment. 
  • We can’t talk about poverty without talking about race, gender, and immigration status. Poverty rates are considerably lower for white people than for people of other races and ethnicities. Race, gender, and immigration status are among the most powerful predictors of who is doing low-paying work.
  • Poverty is intergenerational. People who were poor for at least one year out of ten during childhood are more than twice as likely to experience poverty in their 30s than people who were never poor during childhood.

Lifecycle Solutions

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 of our young people
  • Policing/prison reforms
  • Fatherhood and mentoring programs 
  • Support for mothers/other caregivers 

Jobs of Tomorrow Campaign

The solutions are wide ranging and so we are tackling poverty one solution at a time. In 2017, we decided to focus on workforce development for teens and young adults.

Read about our Jobs of Tomorrow campaign