At the beginning of the year, I shared with the LIFT team that my word for the year is manifest – including manifesting philanthropic dollars worthy of our hard work and passion-filled action. With that, I am reaching out to share some joyful news with you – LIFT has received a $7 million dollar gift from philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott’s Yield Giving Fund! We are so grateful for this transformational funding that will allow us to unleash LIFT’s model for humanitarian engagement of families in poverty alleviation and wealth building. It’s a charge to embrace new, big-picture ideas, and an opportunity to sustain LIFT’s work for years to come. And with this charge comes the responsibility to reflect and to plan.
First of all, I 100% believe that this is a shared victory. Yes, it stems from our track record and vision for the future that has been bolstered by a strong base of committed program partners, donors, and supporters. Put another way, it doesn’t happen without you! We are taking a lot of pride in this moment, and hope that you share equally in the celebration.
This investment is truly a testament to LIFT’s investment in parents of young children to interrupt generational cycles of poverty. Our integrated financial, educational, and employment coaching – along with giving cash – builds upon parents’ wellbeing (hope), financial strength (money), and social connection (love) to unlock new potentials for them and their children. Our learning and insights provide a model for how systems can operate more effectively by acting from a place of trust and equity, relationship building, affirming humanity, and applying generosity.
Since our founding 25 years ago, we have always put our parents first. Their experiences and voices are the engine of our work and the fuel for systemic change. Our direct service in NY, LA, Chicago and Washington D.C. has served as an action tank, providing a foundation for technical assistance (TA) partnerships in new geographies and our policy and advocacy efforts. We look forward to applying this gift for the next 25+ years to come to build our operational infrastructure and our most valuable asset— our talented, passionate, committed, creative, brilliant team producing the most impressive results every day!
The biggest gift from this grant is TIME. Instead of acting from a place of urgency, we are taking the time to celebrate and to re-envision what our next chapter should and could be, and how to get there. As such, we will engage in a refreshed, inclusive strategic planning process over the next year. As we know from our families, it’s hard to level up over the long-term while preoccupied with short-term financial needs.
I am especially heartened by MacKenzie Scott’s trust as I reflect on an article I penned 4 years ago on the challenges faced as a Black CEO. Black leaders make up 10% of nonprofit leadership but receive only 4% of the philanthropy. Being a Black woman CEO widens that gap — in 2016, Black female-led non-profits got only .06% of foundation funding. It is important that this type of investment continues as an acknowledgement of the unique and important perspective that proximate leaders of color bring to creating change.
When I received the news, I had a newfound sense of deep relief of no longer being constrained by a cloud of financial scarcity. This feeling was closely followed by the sobering reality that this level of giving should be the norm, not only for me but for all of us devoted to this work. The power of this gift is not only an abundance in number – but also an opportunity to think abundantly about future and ongoing supports needed to bridge racial and gender wealth gaps, break down barriers to success, shift narratives on deservedness and privilege, and influence entrenched systems to operate with love.
Finally, I am forever grateful for the trust that all of you – our parents, our donors, our program partners – have placed in me to carry forth LIFT’s mission. As our plan unfolds, I am hopeful that you will stay the course, deepen your commitment, and dream boldly with us. I know that, together, we will manifest our vision to change lives and change systems with hope, money, and love so that all families can thrive!
With big gratitude and love,