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

A New Generation of Philanthropists Respond to COVID-19

The Next Gen Giving Circle has a mission to cultivate the Greater Washington region’s next generation of philanthropists. Founded in 2019, Next Gen’s membership is comprised of more than 80 mid-career professionals whose donations range from $240 to $2,500. With the option of monthly donations, Next Gen’s multi-tiered approach encourages members to make meaningful stretch gifts that align with their personal capacity, with lower barriers to entry than a traditional giving circle.

Next Gen’s founders, Carlyn Madden and Peter Williamson, each had a passion for and background in philanthropy. They were introduced by a mutual friend, as both were looking for a different way to conduct their giving and make philanthropy more accessible to a new generation.

Once connected, the giving circle structure began taking shape. “Our basic premise was that with the DC region’s strong middle class, the earlier we can get people to understand their personal role and impact in philanthropy, the more likely they will be to make a lifelong commitment as they build wealth,” says Carlyn.

Carlyn and Peter decided to establish a giving circle at the Greater Washington Community Foundation to pool donations from members and others. They set a stretch goal for 50 members and offered members the opportunity to help build the structure as they went. They quickly exceeded their goal; the current count is more than 80 members.

In addition to pooling resources, pre-COVID, Next Gen also hosted service events, including a trash clean up at Rock Creek Park.

In addition to pooling resources, pre-COVID, Next Gen also hosted service events, including a trash clean up at Rock Creek Park.

“As our membership reached critical mass, people saw the group’s personal, professional, and community value. Ultimately, this felt like validation of our original concept: our peers are looking for accessible ways to connect and give back,” says Peter.  

Next Gen was up and running at the beginning of 2020—right as the pandemic hit. 

As COVID-19 accelerated across the region, a team of 15 Next Gen members quickly created a grants process, guidelines, and application to address the evolving concerns of the local nonprofit sector. With a dramatic rise in COVID-19 infections and a prolonged economic downturn, both with disproportionate impact on Black and brown communities, Next Gen plans to distribute up to $25,000 to community-led responses to the pandemic crisis through a racial equity lens. 

COVID-19 has reinforced how critical Next Gen members’ donations are in supporting urgent community needs. Members will learn about grassroots-led efforts and how to allocate their personal resources, keeping racial justice in mind. 

Next Gen just released a call for applications for small nonprofits and fiscally-sponsored community groups working on behalf of our neighbors across the region facing housing and food insecurity. Eligible programs include support for eviction prevention, legal aid, food pantries, urban farming, and others. By limiting criteria to budgets of less than $500,000 and giving priority to BIPOC-led organizations, Next Gen will help its members understand the value of supporting organizations often overlooked and marginalized by institutional funders and traditional philanthropists. 

About the Founders

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Carlyn Madden
Carlyn Madden is the CEO of Good Insight, an executive search firm and governance consultancy for small and mid-sized nonprofits. Prior to consulting, Carlyn spent close to a decade in grantmaking at a private foundation and a DC government agency. She is the co-founder of the Next Gen Giving Circle, former board chair of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, and an incoming member of the Leadership Greater Washington Class of 2021. A native of the DC region, she’s a committed supporter of local causes. 

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Peter Williamson
Peter Williamson is a professional golfer turned social entrepreneur who is passionate about leveraging the power of play to make philanthropy more accessible. Peter currently lives in the DC Metro area where he launched a creative agency called Game Genius, co-founded the Next Gen Giving Circle, and joined the Global Shapers community. He serves on two boards – Unfunded List, a philanthropy-focused nonprofit, and the Kettering Family Philanthropies.

Tips for Family Giving


By Anna Hargrave, Executive Director for Montgomery County

“How can we get our children involved in giving?” This is one of the questions we hear frequently from our donors, especially around this time of year. We hear it about children of all ages—because parents never stop thinking about how to pass on their values.

And we have plenty of ideas to offer from our many years of working with individuals and families to maximize the benefits and impact of their giving. Here’s a taste:

Donors with their children and friends at one of The Community Foundation’s family-friendly learning events.

Donors with their children and friends at one of The Community Foundation’s family-friendly learning events.

TAKE YOUR CHILDREN WITH YOU when you volunteer or attend an event sponsored by an organization you care about, such as a site visit, presentation, or fundraiser. The rides to and from the event provide the perfect opportunity to prepare them for the experience and then to debrief. Be sure to tell them why you care, and ask about their reactions.

HOLIDAY GATHERINGS are the ideal setting for starting a conversation. With multiple generations represented at the table, it’s a fine time to introduce and discuss what each of you, and each generation, share in common and where you differ. Two simple ideas:

  • Storytelling - Many families tell treasured stories at each holiday. (If you need to jump-start the storytelling, check out these questions from StoryCorps.) Consider adding a new chapter to each story, telling how it makes you think about what you are most grateful for, and how you might express that through your giving.

  • Family giving circle - Invite everyone to join in giving together. For example, adults might all chip in an amount that the under-18 set are tasked with distributing. The kids can discuss and then report out to the whole family about their selection and what inspired them to choose that specific nonprofit. (Tip: The Catalogue for Philanthropy offers a browsable directory of local charities that are vetted by experts.)

Through a kid-to-kid giving circle, local middle school students got to experience the fun of discovering and making grants to great nonprofits.

Through a kid-to-kid giving circle, local middle school students got to experience the fun of discovering and making grants to great nonprofits.

ORGANIZE A FAMILY MEETING to deepen intergenerational ties and develop a plan that expresses your family’s core values. In our fast-paced culture it’s easy to skip straight to reviewing a list of potential organizations to support. But whether the next generation is six or sixty, it’s important to first carve out time for the kids and parents to uncover the values and life experiences that shape your giving priorities. Talking through a few key questions enables everyone to coalesce around a shared vision, help avoid conflict later and make it easier to get everyone to a resounding “yes” when you find the exact right causes to support.

The Community Foundation’s professional staff can design a meeting around your particular needs to write a family mission statement, identify goals and grantmaking priorities, and we can facilitate one-time or annual family meetings.

In working with hundreds of families, we’ve often seen most parents discover that giving helps them achieve more than one goal.  Conversations about philanthropy provide a platform for passing on values and can spark a passion so that the next generation experiences the joy of making a difference. Philanthropy can also keep family members close even as the kids grow up, move away, and get busy with careers and starting their own families.

Best of all, when you see your children thoughtfully and joyfully engaged in giving, you’ll know that your family legacy is in good hands.

Ready to find out more? Contact us at donorservices@thecommunityfoundation.org.

Family Philanthropy: Siblings Working Together in Honor of their Parents

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I feel we’re continuing our parent’s legacy and reinforcing things that were important to them and enriched their lives.
— Ellen Ross

At The Community Foundation, we love to help families experience the joy of giving and share their legacy with family members. One example of the power of families engaging in philanthropy comes from Rose and Harold Kramer who moved to Silver Spring in the early 1940s, where they raised three daughters and a son. Harold, after leaving the government, owned and operated several business ventures while Rose taught school before turning her attention to civic activities. Over the years, she was active in the League of Women Voters; served on the Montgomery County School Board, where she led the fight for school desegregation; and was elected to the Montgomery County Council, where she pushed for affordable housing.

Looking back, Ellen Ross recalls, "My mother became aware through her work that there were a lot of people in our community in need and a lot of inequities. Even a cross burning on our lawn didn't deter her from doing what she believed in."

"Dad had paved the way by making good investments, but mom was the driving force," says Ellen.

At the end of their lives, Rose and Harold told their children of their plan to create a fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation with a generous portion of their assets. When Rose passed away in 2006, the Rose and Harold Kramer Fund was established. Each year, one of their four children has the responsibility of making grants from the fund.  Reflecting on their parents’ legacy, the siblings all make a point to give to issues that move them individually while also investing in causes that they know would have inspired their mom and dad.

Early in the process, Ellen met with Anna Hargrave, Executive Director of The Community Foundation in Montgomery County. "Anna reads your personality really well and saw right away what I reacted well to. My first year was wonderfully interesting."

A resident of Wheaton, Ellen expressed an interest in local groups that provide after-school activities and college preparation for teens living in this multicultural neighborhood. In turn, Anna presented Ellen with a list of a dozen highly effective groups working with middle and high school students.  She then joined Anna in visiting several of the organizations to connect with the leaders, see their programs in action, and hear directly from students about how these programs support their success.

Reflecting on her experience, Ellen shared, “With the gaps between the economically secure and insecure growing wider every year, The Community Foundation has made me aware of programs that most effectively lessen the impact in Montgomery County. My husband and I have independently stepped up to do our share and always feel rewarded by knowing our diverse community has well designed programs to support a range of needs.”