Communities often face a number of policy or administrative hurdles when attempting to address homelessness: city officials may criminalize homelessness, policymakers may choose to support short-term rather than long-term solutions to homelessness, government funding for vital programs may be cut. Individuals and families facing homelessness also interact with many different systems (housing, health care, employment, education etc.) and funders have a unique vantage point to connect the dots, ensuring that we adequately address the needs of the people we are trying to serve.
Advocacy, a key component of a systems approach, becomes essential if we are to overcome these hurdles and remedy the complex issue of homelessness. Funders who want to truly prevent and end homelessness can and must engage in advocacy efforts in their respective communities and/or at the national level. Through advocacy, philanthropy can help reduce policy barriers, leverage funds, and create bridges between different systems to have a real impact on reducing and ending homelessness.
Recognizing that foundations have legal restrictions on lobbying activities, it is important to note that advocacy is not limited to lobbying - though it is an important component and something foundations can support through funding of advocacy organizations. Beyond that, foundations can, and often do:
- Educate the public about ways to end and prevent homelessness, and dispel myths about people experiencing homelessness;
- Inform/educate policymakers and public officials about homelessness;
- Engage other funders in their communities to share information and learn about best practices for ending and preventing homelessness;
- Build relationships with community leaders and a common understanding of why homelessness persists; and
- Use philanthropic dollars to leverage change.
Funders Together Resources
Funders can and should be advocates for policies and funding streams that can end and prevent homelessness. Understand the legal restrictions on private foundations’ advocacy efforts with this new resource.
While there are numerous policies that may affect homelessness services and prevention, we stand behind these key policy principles.
At our 2016 Funders Institute, we focused on two very important topics for philanthropy: equity and advocacy. As part of an ongoing effort to provide support and programming on both issues, we've compiled resources that can aid you in starting and continuing the conversation around these topics in your work to prevent and end homelessness.
From Our Members
Campion Foundation - Advocacy Spectrum and Tools
Published by Council on Foundations, this report explains “lobbying” versus networking and includes a step-by-step guide to contacting policymakers.
This report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy discusses best practices and the impact of philanthropic dollars devoted to advocacy.
Funders in Action: An Example of Funder Advocacy
Texas education grantmakers knew that they needed to act when the state government cut $5.4 billion from the education budget in 2011. Funders began seeing the impacts quickly; requests for grants increased dramatically from organizations that used to receive support from public schools and public-private partnerships were in danger of falling apart. In response, funders formed the Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium (TEGAC) to push back against the massive spending cuts. Because the group was focused on the budget -- and did not get into political ideologies or education reform debates -- it was able to convene and mobilize an unprecedented number of grantmakers throughout Texas. TEGAC also invested $100,000 in research to help shape the public narrative. The programs affected by the budget cuts were the same programs that studies proved to be effective! In May 2013, the Texas legislature reinstated $4 billion out of the $5.4 billion in education funds. Although TEGAC did not take credit for the restoration of funding, the mobilization of funders and the broad support for advocacy had a tangible statewide impact. Read more about this story here.
Please contact Amanda Andere if you would like to discuss advocacy issues further.