Wacif’s Ascend Capital Accelerator Program Wins National Award

SunTrust Foundation Lighting the Way Award recognizes program for innovation, impact

Washington, D.C. (August 26, 2019) – The Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Inc. (Wacif) today received a 2019 Lighting the Way Award from the SunTrust Foundation, an award which recognizes nonprofits nationwide for exceptional efforts to strengthen local communities through programs that help people better their circumstances and gain financial independence.

“Wacif’s commitment to driving equity and opportunity is at the center of our work,” said Wacif Executive Director Harold Pettigrew. “The growth of the Ascend Capital Accelerator reflects the increasing demand for knowledge and financial capital among entrepreneurs and communities across the region. The SunTrust Foundation shares our commitment to making these investments, and we are thankful both for this recognition and for their partnership in advancing our mission.”

Each year, the SunTrust Foundation’s Lighting the Way awards recognizes select nonprofits for impactful programming that sets an example for organizations nationwide. This year, Wacif joined 35 other nonprofit organizations from the Southeast and Midwest in receiving a Lighting the Way Award from the SunTrust Foundation, which gave a total of $2.7 million in grants to these nonprofits.  Beyond the award itself, the SunTrust Foundation provides Lighting the Way Award winners with a $75,000 grant and advanced professional development through a full-day Masters Series Conference.

“The SunTrust Foundation is proud to recognize and support our local nonprofit partners that empower and strengthen the communities they serve,” said Stan Little, President of the SunTrust Foundation. “Wacif is making a meaningful impact with their programs to improve the financial well-being of the people who need it most.”

In 2017, Wacif launched the Ascend Capital Accelerator as a solution to a gap in the small business ecosystem of programs available to assist non-tech, high-growth entrepreneurs seeking to grow their ventures. This competitive, multi-week, cohort-based program builds the capacity of underserved entrepreneurs to secure new opportunities, access capital, and ultimately grow their businesses. An example of the program’s impact from the most recent data gathered showed an average revenue increase of $250,000 per business in the months following graduation from the program. As of August 2019, 52 entrepreneurs have graduated from the program, including 43 entrepreneurs of color, representing a broad array of industries from general contracting, to hospitality, information technology, media, engineering, health care, and more. Gender diversity is another intentional feature of the program’s design, with women representing 62% of program participants.

This recognition from the SunTrust Foundation furthers Wacif’s growth and impact in underserved communities. In 2018, Wacif increased its loan volume by 60%, with increased lending in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, and served 847 clients through small business advisory services, more than twice the number served in 2017. Earlier this year, Wacif was recognized as 2019 Nonprofit of the Year by the DC Chamber of Commerce and the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development for its impact creating an equitable ecosystem for small business success through Washington, D.C.  and in the region.

For more information on the Ascend Capital Accelerator, please visit www.wacif.org/ascend.


About the Washington Area Community Investment Fund

The Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Inc. (Wacif) is one of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area’s leading Community Development Financial Institution’s (CDFI) focused on small business development. Wacif’s mission is to increase equity and economic opportunity in underserved communities in the Washington DC area by investing knowledge, social, and financial capital in low-and moderate-income entrepreneurs. In the last seven years, Wacif has closed more than $9.2 million in loans and assisted over 2,000 entrepreneurs with coaching and technical assistance, sustaining more than 300 local jobs. Learn more at https://live-wacif.pantheonsite.io.

About the SunTrust Foundation
The SunTrust Foundation is committed to SunTrust Bank’s (NYSE: STI) purpose of Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being by engaging with local and national organizations to advance financial confidence. Grants and activities focus primarily on financial education, financial counseling, career readiness and small business/entrepreneurship, in addition to local community grants. The SunTrust Foundation supports American Red Cross disaster relief efforts and contributes as a United Way Global Corporate Leader. Established in 2008, the SunTrust Foundation has proudly provided grants totaling more than $170 million throughout the United States.