Emerging Leaders Impact Fund Brings Philanthropy to Life for Young Professionals

Current and Incoming ELIF Members at the 2022 ELIF Kickoff Event

“Excellence in Truth and Service”

The motto of Howard University. It’s also what Virgil Parker, a returning alumni of the Emerging Leaders Impact Fund (ELIF) told me when I asked him what philanthropy means to him.

“We all have a responsibility to create solutions to help people around you,” Virgil says. “We need to strive to be a man for others.”

His vision comes, in part, thanks to an act of individual philanthropy that changed the course of Virgil’s life.

Six and a half years ago, Virgil arrived in the DC area to study at Howard University. Raised primarily by his mother and maternal grandmother near Rochester, New York, Virgil balanced two jobs while studying so he could continue his education – but it still wasn’t enough to meet mounting financial costs. After just two years, Virgil was forced to drop out.

Virgil Parker was a member
of the inaugural 2020-2021 ELIF cohort

Determined to work his way back into school, Virgil picked up a third job – but he quickly realized that even with the added income, it would take months – maybe even years – before he had enough money to restart his academic career.

Then one day, his boss (a fellow HU alum) learned of Virgil’s financial struggles. In an act of unsolicited generosity, she made a payment of nearly $5,000 to the University on his behalf, no strings attached – just enough money for him to register for classes.

“She did not have to do that,” Virgil said. “But I’m glad she did. Because of her gift, I made a commitment with God that I was going to do all that I could to give back and do my best.”

Virgil returned to Howard University and was quickly drawn to the social impact space. He applied to an internship with the Aspen Institute’s Program of Philanthropy and Social Innovation. There he was introduced not only to the full breadth and scale of philanthropy – but also to a brand-new opportunity for young professionals in Prince George’s County.

“The Emerging Leaders Impact Fund is about the future,” ELIF Chair Davion Percy shares. “Not only the future of our community – here in Prince George’s County -- but it’s also about the future leaders of that community.”

Launched in 2020, ELIF’s goal is to help young professionals realize the positive impact that they can have in Prince George’s County, through a medium that many of their age group may not be super familiar with -- philanthropy.

ELIF Chair Davion Percy speaks to ELIF members at the 2022 ELIF Kick-off Event.

“A lot of young people don’t realize that philanthropy is one of the most sustainable ways to make a difference in your community,” Davion explains. “We can all do things like mentor or volunteer – but few things have as long-lasting an impact – or as much personal and professional fulfillment – as strategically investing through philanthropy.”

“ELIF is basically a behind-the-scenes course of philanthropy in action in Prince George’s County,” says Darcelle Wilson with the Greater Washington Community Foundation. “We take our members behind the scenes and guide them through every step of the philanthropic cycle.”

Over the course of the year, ELIF members learn about Prince George’s County and the challenges that community members face. Based on what they’ve learned, members collectively decide on a cause to invest in and get the unique opportunity to participate in each step of the grantmaking process – from requesting proposals to allocating funding.

“I’m excited to learn more about this world of philanthropy,” incoming ELIF member Kate Spanos shares.

Kate learned about ELIF through her Nonprofit Management & Leadership course at the University of Maryland in College Park. Like several of her classmates, Kate is eager to see how she can apply the principles she’s learning in the classroom to the work she does every day.

“My partner and I started EducArte (a nonprofit in Prince George’s County) at the outset of the pandemic,” Kate explains. “Being new to the nonprofit and philanthropy space, we’re still learning how things work. My hope is that through ELIF we can not only give back, but also better understand what the needs of the community are so we can align ourselves to meet them, as an organization.”

Current and Incoming ELIF Members at the 2022 ELIF Kickoff Event

Last year, the inaugural ELIF cohort -- which totaled 40 young professionals including Virgil-- chose to focus on addressing chronic absenteeism in Prince George’s County schools. The group awarded $11,500 in micro-grants to five different Prince George’s County nonprofits supporting youth and children’s learning.

“The idea of philanthropy is that it doesn’t take a whole lot to do a lot of good,” Virgil adds. “Anyone can participate; anyone can make a difference in their community. All they need to do is find the right avenue to use their given assets to help advance somebody else. For me, ELIF is one of those avenues.”

The Emerging Leaders Impact Fund (ELIF) is now enrolling members for the 2022 cohort. If you would like to give back to your community by becoming an ELIF member, visit www.thecommunityfoundation.org/elif

Emerging Leaders Impact Fund Awards Inaugural Grants to Combat Chronic Absenteeism

The Emerging Leaders Impact Fund (ELIF), a new giving circle for young philanthropists in Prince George’s County, recently completed its inaugural cohort and culminating grant round. ELIF members – 40 young professionals from area colleges, businesses, and civic organizations – selected 5 Prince George’s County nonprofits to receive $11,500 in micro-grants to provide a broad range of services that are designed to address chronic absenteeism and high truancy rates in Prince George’s County schools.

School absenteeism, a problem that leads to learning loss and other negative outcomes, has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis and the need for a transition to remote learning. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to be proficient readers by third grade. By sixth grade, those who miss more than 10 percent of school are more likely to drop out altogether. Frequent school absenteeism has long-term negative effects on academic performance, income, and health. The ELIF has partnered with five nonprofit organizations to address this pressing issue:

  • Jacob’s Ladder to support the Academic Enrichment Program that provides tutoring, basic literacy skills, one on one instructions, small group sessions, confidence building and mentoring to students that have low grades, high rates of truancy, absenteeism, suspensions, and behavioral issues.

  • L.E.E.P. to College Foundation to support pilot learning pods to enrich student learning, increase student engagement, and provide mentoring and emotional well-being support.

  • Mentoring Through Athletics to support tutoring services in mathematics, reading comprehension, and writing as well mentoring and physical activities.

  • S.E.A.C., Inc. (Seaton Empowering Action in the Community) to support the Math Achievers Program that provides individualized and/or small group instruction, consistent relationships between instructors and students, parental involvement, and reinforcing that learning math can be fun. 

  • Sisters4Sisters, Inc. to support the Daughters of Destiny mentoring program for girls which provides workshops focusing on leadership skills, career mentoring, developing self-esteem and avoiding peer pressure.

Jacob’s Ladder Founder and Executive Director Jarriel Jordan, Sr. talks about the organization’s mission and its Academic Enrichment Program.

L.E.E.P to College Foundation Founder and Executive Director Lisa Rowe talks about how ELIF funding will help create an academic enrichment program.

Mentoring Through Athletics supports kids and families on and off the field with mentoring, tutoring, food support, and athletic programming.

“School absenteeism and truancy threatens to undermine our children’s success. We’re pleased to be partnering with so many great organizations to address the issue. These grants will help ensure that every Prince Georgian has the opportunities necessary to reach their full potential,” said Davion Percy, Co-Chair, ELIF.

The strength of ELIF lies not just in how many grants it awards, but more importantly in its ability to bring a diverse group of people together to learn about issues affecting Prince George’s County residents and make investments in programs that can help transform our communities.

The ELIF enrollment period is now open to all emerging leaders (45 years of age and under) and others that support the County’s future leaders. If you’re interested in joining a diverse group of passionate people who use the power of philanthropy to make a positive difference in Prince George’s County, click here to learn more about ELIF and become a member today!

Inspiring Emerging Leaders In Prince George's County

Davion Percy (on the far left) poses with other emerging leaders from The Community Foundation’s Advisory Board in Prince George’s County.

Davion Percy (on the far left) poses with other emerging leaders from The Community Foundation’s Advisory Board in Prince George’s County.


Meet Davion Percy, the dynamic leader of The Community Foundation’s new effort to harness the energy of emerging leaders in Prince George’s County to grow and leverage local philanthropy for positive community impact. Members of the Emerging Leaders Impact Fund (ELIF) contribute to a pooled fund, learn about local needs and solutions, and collaborate to determine where to direct funding to high-impact nonprofits.

As Chair, Davion personifies the kind of young leader for whom ELIF was created. A 34-year-old resident of Suitland, Maryland, Davion currently serves as the Vice President of Government Relations at Alexander & Cleaver, PA, one of Maryland’s most highly regarded law firms. He first learned of The Community Foundation when working as Chief of Staff to former Council Member Karen R. Toles, and became more involved in 2019 when he served on the Planning Committee for the 2019 Civic Leadership Awards in Prince George’s County.

Davion’s vision for ELIF is clear.

“Often, residents grow up in Prince George’s County, go off to school, start careers, become successful, and invest their money in communities elsewhere. My hope is that ELIF will position young philanthropists to support community impact initiatives in Prince George’s County. The primary focus for this coming year is to recruit early and substantial investors. I plan to continue to raise awareness about ELIF, encourage emerging leaders to join, and position ELIF to be significantly impactful on our community. Most important, I am looking forward to not only having the conversation about significant needs in our community, but investing in, and implementing actual solutions to the challenges that our communities face.”

“Let’s put our money—and our brains—where our mouths are!”

Most exciting is the opportunity for inaugural members to build the framework of ELIF and help set its course. For a gift of $500, you receive charter member designation, and in partnership with the Executive Committee you can help shape the philanthropic direction of the ELIF. The contributions, financial and otherwise, of this year’s class of emerging leaders will lay the foundation for ELIF’s impact for generations to come.

Inspired to find out more?

To join ELIF, members contribute an annual membership fee — $500 for charter members, $240 for annual members, or students can join for $120 (just $10 a month!). All contributions are tax-deductible and 90% of every gift supports grants to be distributed by ELIF, while 10% of contributions go to the permanently endowed Fund for Prince George’s County to support a broad range of community needs, projects, and programs. As an ELIF member you will not only join an exclusive network of givers finding solutions to community problems, you will also be connected to organizations doing meaningful work in the County through site visits, member roundtables, nonprofit showcases, special events, and more.

Learn more and join now at https://www.thecommunityfoundation.org/elif.