Project L.I.F.T. surpasses $55 million fundraising goal

Knight Foundation pushes project L.I.F.T. past goal with $4 million gift to engage residents in effort, provide laptops for students


Improving student achievement in Charlotte” by Susan Patterson on Knight Blog

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — (June 28, 2012) – Charlotte leaders today announced that Project L.I.F.T., a public-private partnership to accelerate student achievement in some of Charlotte’s lowest-performing schools, has reached its $55 million fundraising goal.

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation helped push Project L.I.F.T. past its goal with $4 million in support, adding to gifts from Charlotte-area corporations, foundations and private individuals that will help transform West Charlotte schools.  L.I.F.T. stands for Leadership and Investment for Transformation.

The announcement was made Thursday at a press conference at Foundation For The Carolinas. “Project L.I.F.T. is an example of what Charlotte does best – gather resources from the city’s public and private sectors to address our toughest challenges,” said Anna Spangler Nelson, co-chair of the Project L.I.F.T. board and a member of Knight Foundation’s board. “Thanks to the generosity of so many people, including Knight Foundation with this latest gift, this innovative program will bring enhanced educational opportunities and boost student achievement within the L.I.F.T. zone.”

Knight funding for Project L.I.F.T. hits at the core of the foundation’s mission to promote informed and engaged communities. A portion of the support will go toward hiring a community engagement coordinator to ensure that West Charlotte residents are involved in the decision-making each step of the way. The remaining funds will provide laptops and training to 3,200 kindergarten through fifth-grade students through the One Laptop Per Child Organization, as a way to provide the digital skills necessary to compete in today’s connected world.

“The passion for Project L.I.F.T. among Charlotte’s leadership could almost carry this project. But without the families of the 7,000 L.I.F.T. students, without the residents of the 30-plus neighborhoods in Charlotte and volunteers from surrounding areas, we won’t see the transformational change that we’re seeking,” said Susan Patterson, Charlotte program director for Knight Foundation. 

“Access to technology and community outreach are both essential keys to the success of L.I.F.T., particularly in a neighborhood where only 20 to 40 percent have Internet access,” said Richard “Stick” Williams of the Duke Energy Foundation and co-chair of the L.I.F.T. Board. “We are so grateful for this grant.”

The fundraising was also boosted last week by a gift from the Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation, which has committed to a $1.8 million in-kind gift to support Project L.I.F.T.  Presbyterian Healthcare will provide preventive health and disease management services, including immunizations, to students in the L.I.F.T. zone through its Community Care Cruiser. 

Project L.I.F.T. programming has begun in earnest this summer, as many of the educational enhancements, including those related to health care and technology, are coming to life.  

“We are focused on doing the things that we know will help our students achieve academic success,” said Denise Watts, Zone Superintendent for Project L.I.F.T.  “These include enhanced teacher and school leadership quality, more time spent in school, access to technology, and policy changes that will allow school leadership more freedom.  Along with support from the community, we are confident these measures will make a difference in the lives of our students.” 

Project L.I.F.T. is an innovative effort funded by private philanthropy, but run through the public schools. Originally announced in January 2011, the program aims to raise graduation rates and help eliminate the achievement gap. The plan for Project L.I.F.T. came from an idea fostered by officials from The Leon Levine Foundation and the C.D. Spangler Foundation to cooperate on an educational initiative. 

They soon found other funders who also wanted to explore the idea and, with assistance from Foundation For The Carolinas where the funds are held, studied the best way for private philanthropy to assist the public schools. The effort is an initiative of the Foundation’s Robinson Center for Civic Leadership, which convenes leaders, experts and funders to address pressing community needs.

The original funders of Project L.I.F.T., announced on January 31, 2011, include:

  • Belk Foundation, $1 million

  • Foundation For The Carolinas, $2 million

  • Wells Fargo Foundation, $2.5 million

  • Duke Energy Foundation, $5 million

  • Bank of America Charitable Foundation, $10 million

  • C.D. Spangler Foundation, $10 million

  • The Leon Levine Foundation, $10 million

$40.5 million

The $55 million total also includes gifts and in-kind donations from individuals and other organizations, including: Knight Foundation, Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation, Microsoft Corporation, Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation,  Jimmie Johnson Foundation, Coca-Cola Bottling Co., Balfour Beatty, BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), Snyder’s-Lance, The Levine-Sklut Family Foundation (Lori and Eric Sklut), and other individuals and anonymous contributors.

Though the fundraising goal has been exceeded, contributions are still being sought to support key programs and initiatives to enhance Project LIFT. Visit to donate.

About Foundation For The Carolinas

Foundation For The Carolinas is a nonprofit community foundation serving donors and a broad range of charitable purposes in North and South Carolina. With assets of nearly $900  million, the Foundation encourages and makes possible philanthropic giving by individuals of all means to benefit their communities. Visit

About John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more information, visit

Media Contacts

Tara Keener, Foundation For The Carolinas, 704.973.4570, [email protected]

Susan Patterson, Knight Foundation, 704.707.4280, [email protected]

Andrew Sherry, Knight Foundation, 305.908.2677, [email protected]

Denise Watts, Project L.I.F.T., 704.816.0519, [email protected]