Letter from the CEO, 2015

By Kirsten Lodal on November 19, 2015

Categories: News, Our Work

What if we could create a brighter and richer childhood for the next generation of children?

What if we could stem the tide of intergenerational poverty?

What if we could resuscitate the promise of the American Dream?

At LIFT, we believe all those things are possible.

For seventeen years, we have worked tirelessly to help people reach better, more stable places in their lives. Our Advocates and staff have partnered with thousands of Members to secure higher-wage jobs, safer homes, and the hope and courage needed to keep pressing on. I am proud of the work we have done together to arrive at this place, and it is still not enough. We aspire for a world in which our Members and their families not only survive, but also thrive.

Today, despite over fifty years of America’s War on Poverty, income inequality is increasing, the middle class is shrinking, and half of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Almost one in four U.S. children under the age of six lives in poverty, the highest proportion of any age group, child or adult. And if you are a child born into the lowest income bracket, you are five times more likely to remain there than to advance to the highest income bracket. Poverty in America has become a destructive legacy that gets passed down from generation to generation.

We see an opportunity to create a different future for our children. Research tells us that the early years of a child’s life are critical for establishing a strong foundation for the future; by intervening early to provide the vital developmental supports a child needs, we can have an outsized impact on her future. And what better way to ensure a child gets what she needs than to invest in the most important people in that child’s life, her parents?

Drawing on our seventeen years of experience working with adults, LIFT is sharpening its focus to exclusively serve parents of young children in an effort to more directly address the cycle of poverty in the U.S. By narrowing in on the point of transmission – from parent to child – and providing the supports we have demonstrated matter most, we believe that LIFT can help rebuild the American Dream for families across the country.

As we embark on this next chapter of LIFT’s history, we are thankful to build from a place of great strength. Looking back at the past year, we have much to celebrate. The changes that we made to our program – including longer meetings, more rigorous training, and a more intensive weekly commitment from our Advocates – are paying off. Members who engage with us more deeply achieve their goals on average 74% more than they did the previous year. Through our Constituent Voice efforts, we continue to gather Member feedback, driving more rapid cycle innovation and learning, including a validation of LIFT’s core hypothesis: that stronger personal and social foundations are correlated with stronger economic progress.

We also took important steps to prepare for the evolution of our program, including a decision to double-down on our work in four priority regions – Chicago, DC, Los Angeles, and New York cities with some of the highest poverty rates in the country. We plan to pilot new tools and program models, including peer groups, evening and weekend meeting hours, text messaging, scholarships, and financial literacy programs. We are also bringing this intentionality to the design of our physical spaces in order to ensure that children are able to play and develop as their parents work on their goals nearby. And as we learn more from the parents coming through our doors, we will continue to adapt our work to deliver greater impact for families.

None of this work – both what we have accomplished as well as the vision for what will be – would be possible without the incredible support of our staff and Board, especially our outgoing Board Chair, Michael Gilligan. After leading LIFT through five years of incredible growth, Michael is passing the baton to our colleague on the Board, Steve Rotella. Steve is deeply committed to leading LIFT through this next phase of our work and knows that he has big shoes to fill. So thank you, Michael, for giving so generously of your wisdom, business acumen, and compassion these past many years.

And thank you to this community for contributing so much in support of our big vision for LIFT and for the Members we serve. Because of all of you this work is possible.

This next phase of LIFT’s evolution is full of potential, and we need each and every one of you to help us chart a better way forward for families. Together, we can create a brighter and richer life for the next generation of children.

Kirsten E. Lodal
CEO & Founder

About the Author

Kirsten Lodal

Kirsten Lodal is LIFT’s Founder and Senior Advisor. She served as the organization’s CEO for more than 20 years, from its founding in 1998 until 2019 when she passed the torch to Michelle Rhone-Collins. LIFT began as an idea during her sophomore year of college and has become one of the foremost anti-poverty organizations in Read More