New Grants from Catalyst Fund Support Wealth-Building and Entrepreneurship

The Greater Washington Community Foundation is excited to announce $250,000 in grants through the Catalyst Fund, a new initiative focused on community-based efforts to support small business, micro-enterprise development, and entrepreneurship. The Catalyst Fund is an outgrowth of the Community Foundation’s long-standing support for job training and workforce development solutions, and also represents a shift in our strategy to consider the changing nature of our region’s workplaces and economy. According to an Association for Enterprise Opportunity report, the median net worth of business owners is almost 2.5 times higher than non-business owners. For people of color, the distinction is even greater—for instance, a Latino man who owns a business has a net worth that is approximately 5 times higher than his peers, while for a black woman the difference is 10 times.

“These Catalyst Fund grants underscore the importance of investments in wealth-building and entrepreneurship, as well as signal a need for more philanthropists and funders to invest in preparing workers for The Future of Work. The Community Foundation will make this one of the hallmarks of our forthcoming strategy to disrupt poverty and build thriving communities across the Greater Washington region,” said Tonia Wellons, VP of Community Investment at the Greater Washington Community Foundation.

Catalyst Fund Grant Awards

Life Asset

In the District of Columbia, the Fund is investing in Life Asset’s microloan and small business training program for low-income entrepreneurs. Life Asset works to alleviate poverty in the Greater Washington area by empowering people through affordable financial products, services, and education, thereby promoting self-help and self-respect and expanding social and economic opportunities for lower income residents. The Catalyst Fund’s $75,000 investment will help Life Asset scale its work to double its loan capacity in 2018.

"Life Asset is grateful for the partnership with The Community Foundation and excited to scale up our proven microloan program. Our goal for the next 12 months is to provide microloans coupled with business training to 800 low-income entrepreneurs - creating jobs and financial self-sufficiency through business ownership."

- Executive Director Markus Larsson


In Maryland, the Fund is making investments in a trio of community-based groups, each working to build wealth in grassroots communities using different and innovative approaches. This includes CASA, the foremost Latino and immigrant organization in the region with a mission to create a more just society by building power and improving the quality of life in working class and immigrant communities. The Catalyst Fund’s $50,000 investment will support CASA’s efforts to ensure that small local businesses along the International Corridor (spanning the neighborhoods of Long Branch in Montgomery County and Langley Park in Prince George’s County) are not displaced during the construction of the new Purple Line Light Rail.

“With the construction of the Purple Line having already begun, we have an historic opportunity to ensure that small businesses in the International Corridor not only survive the construction, but thrive in their revitalized neighborhood. CASA is so excited to expand our work in supporting the small businesses in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties affected by the Purple Line by offering technical assistance and advocacy, thanks to the additional support we will be receiving through the Catalyst Fund.”

- Jennifer Freedman, CASA’s Chief of Development and Finance

Impact Silver spring

The Fund has also invested $75,000 in IMPACT Silver Spring, whose vision is for every resident to lead a full and quality life in a racially and economically equitable Montgomery County. The Catalyst Fund’s grant will support IMPACT Silver Spring's ongoing efforts to build a local economy ecosystem that enables low-income residents of color to build and own a network of micro, small, and cooperatively-owned businesses - leading to increased financial security, assets, and community wealth. 

"We applaud the Greater Washington Community Foundation for investing in strategies that go beyond managing symptoms to root cause solutions.  While jobs can help people get out of poverty, they need assets to stay out of poverty."

- Jayne Park, Executive Director of IMPACT Silver Spring

Crossroads Community Food Network

Finally, the Fund has invested $50,000 in Crossroads Community Food Network, a Montgomery County-based nonprofit that works to bolster the local food system through programs that support and unite those who grow, make, and eat fresh, healthy food. Our investment will support the Microenterprise Training Program & Community Kitchen, a free, bilingual entrepreneurship and business support program for underserved aspiring food entrepreneurs.  Graduates are eligible to apply to use Crossroads’ brand-new Takoma Park Silver Spring Community Kitchen for entrepreneurs to create their products to potentially be showcased at Crossroads’ own Farmers Market.

“Funding at this critical juncture in our program will enable us to scale up our food entrepreneur training program to ensure our new community kitchen reaches full capacity. These two initiatives extend the opportunity of entrepreneurship to people who are often left out. We're thrilled to be able to provide more economic opportunities for low-income immigrants.”

- Christie Balch, Crossroads’ Executive Director

The Community Foundation is thrilled to support these high-quality nonprofits in their efforts this year. If you would like more information about these organizations, the Catalyst Fund, or to learn more about how you can work to support workers and entrepreneurs to succeed in our region’s changing economy, contact Benton Murphy at