Opportunity Fund is a community-supported nonprofit—we share our vision, and invite the community to help make it a reality through their support. In some cases, what starts as a single gift transforms into a longstanding partnership. Funders who stick with one cause—and one organization—can be hard to find. Mark and Debra Leslie are these committed donors.
As an entrepreneur himself, Mark has a natural affinity for Opportunity Fund’s strategy to support economic development and job creation by providing microloans and assistance to underserved small business owners. As the grandson of immigrants, he has a first-hand appreciation of the power of entrepreneurship as well as the importance of offering a hand-up to enterprising entrepreneurs.
When Mark and Debra made their first grant to support Opportunity Fund’s microlending program in 2000, we were making 20 microloans a year. Microfinance was barely in the public conversation, and only as a strategy in developing countries. But the Leslies saw an innovative idea and made a commitment to support it over the long-term. Even then, Mark believed in Opportunity Fund’s ability to scale this high-impact program. He pushed us to keep growing. And, crucially, he and Debra provided the funds to make it happen (and opened the doors to their home to help introduce Opportunity Fund to a broader audience, as well).
Today, Opportunity Fund is operating throughout California and helping an average of 100 new entrepreneurs get microlending for their small businesses, totaling $1 million, each month! A few weeks ago, the Leslie Family Foundation announced a $150,000 grant to Opportunity Fund to support our microlending program, bringing the total of their annual grants to over $1 million. The family’s loyal support—year after year—has provided the critical foundation to enable Opportunity Fund to grow our microlending by more than 5000%. Every $1 they have invested has leveraged $2.50 in new loans, creating new jobs and generating nearly $5 in annual economic activity.
Our thanks to Mark and Debra, and the entire Leslie family, for your remarkable commitment to the thousands of business ventures Opportunity Fund supports, and the many exciting business ventures to come!
Mark and Debra Leslie open their home to Opportunity Fund's wider community of supporters and clients. Here, 'Opportunity Funded' entrepreneur Manuel Godino shares his story of opening San Francisco's beloved Venga Empanadas. (Pictured right: Mark Leslie. Left: Manuel Godino.)