Celebrating Three Years of Lever for Change

February 3, 2022

Lever for Change will celebrate its third birthday this month and we have much to celebrate. When we launched in 2019, we hoped to accelerate solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems by encouraging problem solvers to think big and by connecting those big ideas with donors willing to support them with large, multi-year grants of more than $10 million. Our team of six had serious doubts about whether we would succeed. Nonetheless, we set out with the ambitious goal of driving $1 billion in philanthropic funding to outstanding organizations by 2023.

An image of Dr. Cecilia Conrad smiling.
Caption: Dr. Cecilia Conrad

Today, Lever for Change has a staff of 18 and we are happy to share that we are close to reaching our goal. So far, we have influenced more than $800 million in grants and provided support to more than 140 organizations.

As the world faces an increasing number of issues, our community of problem solvers is stepping up with bold solutions to increase economic opportunity, reduce CO2 emissions, provide durable futures for refugees, improve the quality of life for Texans, increase women’s power and influence in the United States, and increase racial equity around the globe.

Lever for Change remains committed to helping our growing, global network of highly rated organizations secure additional funding and amplify their impact. We are especially excited that we are helping organizations who were not “winners” of our challenges obtain funding for their great ideas. More than half of the $800 million in grants that we have influenced have gone to organizations and teams that were finalists, not awardees.

So far, we have influenced more than $800 million in grants and provided support to more than 140 organizations.

Cecilia Conrad, CEO, Lever for Change

Today, we are sharing another opportunity to fund bold solutions: with our partners at ICONIQ Impact, we are proud to announce the five finalists for the $22 million Stronger Democracy Award, which will help drive structural reforms to improve political representation and increase the participation of all citizens in the United States’ democratic process.

We hit the ground running in 2022: Lever for Change is launching two new ambitious challenges in coming months. Stay tuned for more information.

In the meantime, we are also assessing the impact of our past awardees. In this edition, we check in with Per Scholas, the premier technology workforce development organization. Almost one year has passed since Per Scholas was awarded the $10 million Economic Opportunity Challenge, so our colleague, Vernon Smith, interviewed Plinio Ayala, President and CEO, for an update on his team’s progress.

We are also taking stock of our progress at Lever for Change. The past couple of years have been a learning experience for us all, with the continued national reckoning with racial inequity, magnified by health inequities that COVID-19 has brought to light.

Many donors are actively seeking to invest in solutions to address inequities. As such, it is more important than ever for Lever for Change to better understand and promote our community of problem solvers—our Bold Solutions Network—which showcases the highest-ranked proposals that have emerged from each of our challenges.

At Lever for Change, learning is a key part of everything we do. Each challenge presents an opportunity to learn—with a focus on making the process more equitable, accessible, and efficient.

Cecilia Conrad, CEO, Lever for Change

In 2021, our team engaged in a refresh process with network members to update their project information, collect demographics, allow teams to opt into continuing their membership, and to gather information on leveraged funds attributed to their participation in one of our challenges. Our Social Impact Intern, Brenda Urueta, shares insights and results of the refresh.

At Lever for Change, learning is a key part of everything we do. Each challenge presents an opportunity to learn—with a focus on making the process more equitable, accessible, and efficient. We value transparency, the discussion around disproportionate power and representation, and the good work of all our partners.

When we understand the teams with whom we are working, we are able to match them with the most relevant donors for their projects. Tom Watkins, Cross-Foundation Administrator at Lever for Change and the MacArthur Foundation, worked with our team to collect additional demographic data to best match the aspirations of donors wanting to support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)-led and WOC (Women of Color)-led organizations. This research allowed us to see if there were gaps in our processes, which, when addressed, could help us increase our outreach to more diverse organizations and examine competition processes that may skew who applies.

The remarkable work of the outstanding organizations in our Bold Solutions Network is driving toward a more just and equitable world. As part of our annual impact evaluation, we track how much capital is leveraged for our Bold Solutions Network members. This information, together with qualitative feedback, helps us understand if we are hitting our goals of sourcing diverse and bold ideas, and unlocking sufficient capital for social change. Our Social Impact team provided a quarterly snapshot of our momentum. We hope you are excited by our progress.

We are committed to sharing what we are learning with the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, but humbly acknowledge the expertise of others, especially those who experience directly the consequences of the world’s biggest problems. We couldn’t have made such bold progress toward our ambitious goal without the trust and collaboration of our many partners.

We look forward to working with you to help accelerate social change in the world in 2022!

Help Accelerate Positive Change in the World

Join us and help support nonprofits and problem solvers scale their bold solutions to the world's greatest challenges.