What We Do

The Problem

DC is one of the wealthiest regions in the country yet in some wards, one out of every three children lives below the poverty line and more than 40 percent of the population is classified as “low-income.” We lead the nation in bike access lanes, yet also claim the prize for HIV/AIDS infection at epidemic levels, obesity rates, and infant mortality rates. Our city has more residents with graduate and professional degrees than any other given our size, but also the nation’s worst high school graduation rates, particularly for young people of color. The organizations and programs that we fund, sponsor, and equip—our grantees—are tackling these problems each and every day. Our end goal is to empower community-driven innovation. We believe that healthy communities have access to high-quality education, food, and a pathway out of poverty.

Our Mission

DC Social Innovation Project identifies, invests in, and provides targeted resources for new socially innovative programs—with new ideas—that tackle pressing social issues in Washington, DC. These new programs are improving the communities around us by creating job opportunities, improving access to healthy nutritious food, and enhancing educational engagement of children at the greatest risk of dropping out of high school.

Our Model

The heart of our solution is to equip local innovation thought leaders with the resources, know-how, and advice they need to improve their communities with our unique $25,000 social capital grant. We do this by:

  1. Providing up to a $3,000 monetary award, half of which our grantees are required to match
  2. Tailoring a comprehensive management pro-bono consulting package for each new grantee, which provides strategic know-how, capacity building and organizational guidance valued at $22,000
  3. Connecting our grantees to a network of other programs just like themselves with targeted knowledge exchanges of information sharing platforms to expand their impact


Frequently Asked Questions


How do I apply for a grant?

Twice per year we open an application process and invite community members and organizations to apply for funding and pro bono services to support their work. From those applicants, our board of directors selects two winning applicants each cycle. Applicants are evaluated based on several factors including: Potential social impact; Financial feasibility and sustainability; Collaboration with local government agencies, non-profits, or businesses; Leadership ability of the individual and/or team; Originality of the idea; Enthusiasm and connection to the community to be served.

How can I be notified of grant opportunities?

We provide information about grant opportunities on our newsletter. Click here to be added to our list!

What can I expect if I am selected as a DCSIP grantee?

We provide grantees with a yearlong partnership of coaching, pro-bono expertise, and support to position new projects for success in addition to financial support. In addition to those services, our grantees receive regular newsletters, visibility opportunities in the media and through our partnerships, and are highlighted to our social media channels reaching thousands.

All DCSIP grantees must sign a grant agreement outlining their responsibilities of the partnership. After the grantee agreement is signed, DCSIP provides onboarding packets to identify key milestones in the year ahead. Grantees must match half the amount of DCSIP’s financial grant award within two months of signing the award before grant funds will be disbursed. We also expect grantees to provide information to help us highlight our partnership and provide active support to consulting teams who will work intensively with you for a 3-4 month period of time on a key strategic challenge that you lay out together. We spend the remaining year of the partnership working on implementing those recommendations to ensure maximize success during the crucial start-up phase.

Why do you give grants and pro-bono expertise? Can I just apply for a monetary grant? How is the grant paid?

We provide financial support and strategic expertise because we feel both are needed for successful incubation of new ideas–this is why we created our unique social capital grantmaking package valued at $25,000. We believe this package provides grantees with much-needed seed money to launch new ideas and develop a proof of concept, validation to attract additional resources, and capacity to develop sustainability and scale. At this time you cannot apply for just a monetary grant from DCSIP.

Through our grant agreement process, grantees and DCSIP jointly identify a grant payment process that meets the grantee needs. We provide up to $3,000 in financial funding which is bundled with pro-bono consulting and expertise valued at $22,000.

Do you offer fiscal sponsorship?

DCSIP does offer fiscal sponsorship to our grantees to eliminate barriers to fundraising and scaling new projects. Grantees who would like to pursue fiscal sponsorship must first complete an application online. At this time we do not provide fiscal sponsorship to organizations that are not our grantees.


I want to volunteer for DCSIP. What kinds of volunteer opportunities do you provide?

DCSIP relies on volunteers to support our grantees. We ask that all volunteers fill out an interest form to share your skillset with us so we can match you up with opportunities. Our volunteer opportunities range from specific assistance with DCSIP targeted projects, to single day pro-bono blitzs, to dedicated pro-bono consulting projects that last three-four months. We also have an all-star team of volunteers who serve on our associate board and help us support and strategically steer the organization.

How do I find out about volunteer opportunities?

We provide information about volunteer opportunities on our newsletter. Click here to be added to our list!

How do you select volunteers to serve on pro-bono teams?

All volunteer interest forms are screened on a monthly basis to determine if you are a good fit for our process. We ask all volunteers to complete a 30 minute webinar that is provided four times a year to learn more about our process. Twice per year, we will solicit for volunteers for pro-bono assignments and based on that interest our Associate Board and DCSIP fellow will identify and recruit team leaders and members.

What can I expect if I am selected to serve on a pro-bono consulting team?

Team leaders are required to meet with our Executive Director before their assignment begins. All teams will draft a scope of work for approval by a DCSIP grantee to identify deliverables and timelines and then meet in-person with their grantee during a DCSIP facilitated workshop to approve those plans. Consulting teams are required to check in with their grantees half-way during the process and a DCSIP Fellow will support strong communication between grantees and their teams. Consulting teams will share their final deliverables with grantees in a final presentation call. DCSIP’s Associate Board will also talk with you at the completion of your assignment to evaluate your experience and look for ways to improve upon our process.


What are Community Investors and what are the benefits of joining this group?

Community Investors are dedicated supporters of DC Social Innovation Project. By providing a regular monthly donation—starting with $10/month–they help DC Social Innovation Project develop steady support for our grantees and model. Community Investors are invited to special events and are highlighted on our website and newsletter. Click here to become a Community Investor!

Can I be both a financial supporter and a volunteer?

ABSOLUTELY. DCSIP has a dedicated all-star group of leaders who both financial support and volunteer their time and energy to make innovation happen in the nation’s capitol. Our Associate Board members donate their talent and treasure and make a world of difference. If you are interested in learning more about this leadership opportunity please contact us at info@dcsocialinnovation.org to start the conversation.

I’m interested in underwriting a grant to focus on a particular interest area. Is that possible?

Donors who provide $5,000 can identify issue or interest areas (such as digital literacy) to shape our call for applicants, participate in the application selection process, and meet grantees and consulting teams throughout the process. This is an excellent way to ensure that your contribution supports innovation and provides new projects with strategic support and increase their likelihood of success. Our track record is excellent and we would look forward to partnering with you. Please contact us at info@dcsocialinnovation.org to learn more about how you tackle poverty through innovation.

Do you have sponsorship opportunities available?

Yes. Throughout the year we hold events and receptions to bring young millennials together with community leaders who are shaping innovation in the District of Columbia. We have numerous ways to provide recognition if you are interested in becoming a DCSIP Startup Sponsor. Please contact us at info@dcsocialinnovation.org to learn more about how you can provide sponsorship of our nationally recognized model.


  • DC Social Innovation Project is Incorporated2010
    Co-founders Darius Graham and Omar Hashmi incorporate DC Social Innovation Project, Inc. as a nonprofit in the District of Columbia.
  • DC Social Innovation Project provides its very first grant2011
    DC Social Innovation Project provides its very first grant to Moms on the Move. This $1500 financial grant and pro-bono expertise package helped incubate Moms on the Move and offer free wellness events east of the Anacostia River.
  • DC Social Innovation Project hosts a launch party and raises money for its very first grant programs2011
    DC Social Innovation Project hosts a launch party and raises money for its very first grant programs–the Community Lab grants program provides $3,000 grants to small or early-stage non-profits in DC to launch innovative new programs and The Bright Idea Challenge, enlists 18-35 year olds in the DC area to propose creative social ventures that address a local issue, and the best idea receives up to $10,000 in funding and other pro bono services to help them launch their venture.
  • DCSIP announces its Bright Idea Challenge winners2012
    DCSIP announces its Bright Idea Challenge winners: Young Doctors Project (grand prize winner) founded by Dr. Malcolm Woodland and Food for Life founded by Marisa Stubbs.
  • Darius Graham named one of 20 Finding Fearless winners by the Case Foundation2012
    Darius Graham was recognized by the Case Foundation as one of 20 Finding Fearless winners for his leadership of DCSIP and the social innovation sector. This national search combed through almost 1,200 submissions to recognize, reward and inspire fearless changemakers.
  • Darius Graham is recognized by Ebony Magazine as a “Hero Next Door”2013
    DCSIP co-founder, Darius Graham is recognized by Ebony Magazine as a “Hero Next Door” for his efforts to launch DC Social Innovation Project and support social entreprenurial efforts to tackle poverty.
  • DCSIP Grantee, Eli Saslow, receives Pulitzer Prize2014
    Eli Saslow, co-founder of Press Pass Mentors and DCSIP grantee receives the Pulitizer Prize for his year-long investigative report on reliance of food stamps in post-recession America.
  • CNN Money recognizes DCSIP Grantees2014
    Bright Idea Challenge winners, Young Doctors Project, and Food for Life, are recognized by CNN Money as movers and shakers in the DC start up scene focused on tackling poverty.
  • DCSIP Celebrates it’s 5th Birthday2015
    June 8, 2015: DCSIP celebrates its 5th birthday and an 80% incubation success rate of new social ventures.