At Funders Together, we make it a goal to share the work of funders across the country so you can learn what's working and adapt these strategies to your own community. One way we do that is through our Featured Members. Some are featured because of their innovative grantmaking. Others are featured because they are making connections and bringing new people into the conversation about ending and preventing homelessness. Still others are featured because they are challenging the very systems that allow homelessness to persist. In each case, our Featured Members are an integral part of the solution to homelessness.
Formed in 2013, Funders Together San Diego is comprised of individual philanthropists and grant makers who invest in effective systems change with the goal of ending homelessness throughout San Diego County. The former Homelessness Working Group transitioned from San Diego Grantmakers to become part of the growing group of public and private partners supporting activities to end homelessness in the region. The group works to coordinate existing community resources – including funds, services, health care and job readiness assistance – and align them more effectively to help break the cycle of homelessness.
- Alliance Healthcare Foundation
- Parker Foundation
- McCarthy Family Foundation
- Brailean Family Trust
- La Jolla Coin Shop
- San Diego Housing Commission
- United Way of San Diego County
We spoke with Erica Snyder, Community Impact Manager at United Way of San Diego County, who manages and staffs Funders Together San Diego, about the Funders Network.
Q: What has been some of the biggest benefits to being part of a Funders Network and can you also speak to some of the challenges that you have encountered and how the group has addressed those?
Erica Snyder (ES): As with any collaboration, there are major benefits along with some challenges. One of the biggest benefits of being part of a Funders Network is the ability to leverage funds. As individuals, our members are putting dollars in, but then seeing a larger impact because that money is now part of a larger pool. The learning and education opportunities are another critical benefit. They help inform us where our dollars will be best served as we look to invest into various system change efforts in the region. The collaborative also helps increase the ability to be visible throughout the county as members attend different community meetings with stakeholders. These meetings allow us to learn about various community efforts and determine not only individual goals, but how those goals fit into the collaboration’s funding strategy.
As far as challenges, many of our members have known each other for years and work very well together which is great, but we are now at a place where we would like to grow our membership and are determining thoughtful ways to engage new funders and increase membership. Also, philanthropy can sometimes have siloed conversations. Funders external to FTEH-SD may not always see the natural connection between their funding priorities (i.e. child welfare, education, etc.) and homelessness, so we need to encourage people to widen their own lenses and see how their passions intersect with homelessness.
Q: What has been Funders Together San Diego’s most influential accomplishment?
ES: One of our most exciting accomplishments was being part of one of a major private-public partnerships in San Diego by working with the San Diego Housing Commission in support of their Housing First – San Diego Homelessness Action Plan. Our collaborative had $240,000 of funding available to invest in converting transitional housing into permanent housing options (i.e rapid re-housing or permanent supportive housing). By working with the commission and having discussions with them as a partner at FTEH-SD meetings, we were able to leverage that $240,000 into $10 million of public funding to support the operational expense of to create permanent supportive and convert existing transitional housing. This was huge, not only for our group, but for the county as a whole because it showed the power of private-public partnerships and how impactful it can be. The money we put forth was amplified to help as many as 1,500 San Diegans who are experiencing homelessness. This partnership was a great opportunity to show the community how philanthropy is able and willing to work with public agencies in order to create solutions.
Q: What are some projects that Funders Together San Diego have in progress?
ES: We have three areas of focus for our Funding Priorities: Systems Change, Regional Continuum of Care Council and Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement System. Right now, our biggest focus is on systems change funding.
Moving forward, we are really focused on examining where there is energy and need within the community so we can focus there. That will help us determine the best area to send funds in order to bring about systems change in San Diego.
Q: Aside from funding systems-change, what other ways has Funders Together San Diego made strides in the county?
ES: The idea of a funding collaborative was really new to the community. The community, specifically public funders, was apprehensive at first because they weren’t used to seeing private funding coming together as group. Prior to Funders Together San Diego, most of the private funding was done at the organizational or individual level. Now they are seeing people coming together all in the name of ending homelessness.
When people refer to Funders Together San Diego now, they think of a strong, cohesive group. We share contractual language with our public funders to reinforce outcomes we are all trying to achieve. In turn, service providers are starting to understand how this process works and share with us what is working and where they are struggling which has really helped us understand where our dollars are needed.
Q: We urge Funders Together members to think about advocacy and how it can fit into their organizational plan. What role does advocacy play in Funders Together San Diego?
ES: Overall, the funding collaborative’s stance is to stay engaged and knowledgeable on what is happening within the homelessness space. In order to do so, we host speakers or educational opportunities and encourage members to advocate based on what they have learned. Since the foundations have different laws to adhere to, we encourage people to advocate on an individual basis. As individuals, advocacy efforts can take many forms, mostly at the local level: social media efforts, meeting with local officials, town hall meetings or sitting on various councils and the Continuum of Care Governance Board. As our members partake in these efforts, it reminds our community stakeholders that there is a group of passionate funders in the area who are dedicated to do whatever they can to end homelessness in the San Diego area and also nationally.
Q: What advice would you have for other who were considering starting or joining a Funders Network?
ES: Funders Together San Diego started as a learning community and grew from there. In that effort, we found a common interest as the place to start and as we learned more, common agreements were developed and trust was built. If you are looking to start a network, step one is to start engaging and talking with people who agree that they want to end homelessness. Step two is to build trust within that group. People want to collaborate with others who share passion and have motivation to do what it takes to produce outcomes, so by building trust and staying engaged, others will be drawn into that energy. If people are already meeting, attend! Take time to learn about the community and where other funders are investing so you can align efforts to make the largest impact. Philanthropy does a great job talking with the community and the more we talk with each other, the more we are able to bring fresh ideas to our peers.
Interested in started a Funders Network in your area? Check out our Building a Funders Network 101 resource.