Welcome to the Lever for Change Community!
A former student of mine once described me as “terminally cheerful.” I am not alone. A spirit of optimism—of infinite possibilities—is what propels the Lever for Change staff, the donors who engage with us and the organizations and teams who aspire to solve society’s most pressing problems. Despite their optimism and ambition, donors often do not have the time, expertise or staffing to best leverage their dollars to achieve the results they seek. Likewise, the organizations with solutions often do not have access to the resources needed to fully implement and scale them. Lever for Change seeks to connect these donors and problem solvers so they can deliver the impactful change they both dream of achieving.
Earlier this year, we founded Lever for Change to help donors overcome the challenges that prevent them from achieving their philanthropic goals by providing the expertise, infrastructure, and logistical support needed to identify and vet strong proposals. Lever for Change offers two distinct, but related paths for connecting donors with bold approaches to social change. In the first path, donors can sponsor customized competitions designed to find and fund the most effective and enduring solutions that address the issues that matter most to them. Competitions will employ a transparent and rigorous process to source, vet, and evaluate proposals.
We learned from MacArthur’s 100&Change that a single competition will uncover many more strong and promising proposals than one grant can fund. The second path allows philanthropists to view the strongest proposals that surface through 100&Change and other competitions in the Lever for Change Solutions Bank. From this database, Lever for Change will curate philanthropic opportunities matched to donor interests. This option offers a faster approach to identifying powerful, high impact solutions aligned with a donor’s philanthropic goals.
We also created Lever for Change with a commitment to supporting organizations that have the right solutions but that rarely have the opportunity to fully implement and scale them. Nonprofit leaders report that they need larger grants, multi-year commitments and the freedom and flexibility to use their expertise to develop and refine strategies that work. To meet these needs, Lever for Change competitions must offer a minimum grant of US$10 million, payable over up to five years. We encourage donors to use the competition as an opportunity for discovery, to avoid being too prescriptive about the form a solution might take and to be open to new ideas for how to solve problems that come from the field. Lever for Change will also work with the strongest applicants to augment their ability to sell their ideas to donors and to help them build robust plans for scaling and implementation.
The Lever for Change community consists not only of donors with significant philanthropic resources and organizations and teams in need of funding. It also includes a significant number of external voices, independent of the donors and of Lever for Change, who evaluate proposals and provide valuable feedback to applicants. We owe a debt of deep gratitude to those individuals (currently numbering over 300) who serve as volunteer judges for Lever for Change competitions.
Our first nine months have been exhilarating. In April, our first donor partner, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, launched The Chicago Prize, a competition to award a $10 million grant for a community investment in Chicago’s South and/or West Side. The application period closed a few weeks ago and, following administrative review, a robust pool of community-led applications will advance to a distinguished panel of evaluators. MacArthur’s second round of 100&Change also launched in April. 100&Change is a global competition for a $100 million grant to fund a single proposal that promises to solve a problem. The application period for 100&Change is closed and proposals are now in Peer-to-Peer review. Later this fall, we will launch another competition, followed by six more competitions that are on the docket for 2020 on topics ranging from durable futures for global refugees to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Lever for Change is a vehicle not only for individual donors, but also for collaboration among donors. We are already seeing donors work together to fund a single award and donors cooperating to offer multiple awards within a single competition. We are working with several donor collaboratives to source ideas from the Lever for Change Solutions Bank.
If you are terminally cheerful or just generally optimistic that there are problems we can solve, join our community. Let us know if you’d like to serve as a judge or reviewer, if you’d like to sponsor a competition or need help accessing ideas from our Solutions Bank, or if you want to learn more about future competitions. Join us—and let’s make the world a better place together.