Instead, Conway has concluded that he can do the most good, over the long haul, by helping low-income people get the education and training they need to land jobs that are already available.
The impact could be significant in a region where tens of thousands of jobs go begging because local residents are unprepared for them.
Conway disclosed Tuesday that he’s making a down payment on his $1 billion promise with an initial round of grants totaling $55 million. Most will go to scholarships and other tuition assistance to help nursing students at area universities and children at Catholic schools, and to fund a job training program in Anacostia.
“I want to give away the money. I don’t want to die with it. I want the money to be used well,” Conway, 63, said in an interview. He spoke in the Pennsylvania Avenue offices of Carlyle Group, the mega-successful international financing company of which he is co-chief executive and a co-founder.
Conway’s grants are unusually large for the kinds of organizations that he is targeting, and there’s more to come.
“This is huge. It’s unprecedented. I’ve got goose bumps,” said Chuck Bean, president of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington. “I’ve only seen big, seven-figure grants go to large cultural institutions, not to on-the-ground direct service organizations like these.”
Such investments “put people on the path to independence,” Bean said. “This is good not only for the direct recipients, but I think Mr. Conway’s first tranche of grants will make his home town better for all of us.”
If the initial grants yield good results, Conway said, he foresees donating hundreds of millions of dollars more for the same purposes.
“I’m going to see how this works out,” Conway said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if over the next five or 10 years, the amount that went into these similar kinds of buckets was five to 10 times more.”
More than half of the initial grants, $30 million, are going for training in nursing and health care. They will go to at least five universities and an academy in our region: Trinity, Marymount, Catholic, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown and LAYC Career Academy. Others might benefit, as well.
Why nursing? Partly because Conway is looking for lasting solutions. Demand for nurses is so high right now that anyone with a degree will be able to obtain employment.
Conway’s wife, Joanne, also influenced him.
“My wife had a lot to do with this. She just thought, nurses. She thought people who had nursing degrees could get jobs. It’s that simple,” Conway said.
Conway was also impressed with the work of nurses who cared for his parents, both of whom died in the past year.