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Grant-making in the Homelessness Area: One Foundation’s Strategic Initiative to Help End Homelessness in Washington, D.C.

The William S. Abell Foundation decided five years ago that it needed to take a fresh look at its grant-making in the homelessness area since little progress had been made in the District in addressing homelessness. 

The William S. Abell Foundation is a small ($70M in assets) private family foundation which has funded nonprofits engaged in helping the homeless in the District of Columbia during the 25 years of its existence. The Foundation decided five years ago that it needed to take a fresh look at its grant-making in the homelessness area since little progress had been made in the District in addressing homelessness. The Foundation’s Board established a Homelessness Committee which undertook an intensive self-education process to determine what was working and what was not in the District and elsewhere. Based on this groundwork, the Board undertook a five year Strategic Initiative during which it has spent $8.3 M in trying to work with others who have been trying to change D.C. from a shelter based model to a model which seeks to end homelessness.

We have worked closely with Funders Together and the leading members of that organization in formulating our grant-making strategy and also in its implementation. Our grant-making has met with some measure of success and there have been important lessons learned along the way. We have prepared a Final Report on our Strategic Initiative which might be of interest to other funders interested in devising or improving their grant-making strategies in the homelessness area. A link to the final Report is:http://www.williamsabellfoundation.org/system/files/WSAbell_Fdn_Homelessness_Report.pdf. The Report contains a short Executive Summary which provides an overview of our strategic initiative. Of particular interest to funders is a detailed section of the specific lessons we learned from our five years of intensive and proactive grant-making.

Tom_Nurmi.jpgTom Nurmi is a member of the Board of Trustees of the William S. Abell Foundation and chair of its Homelessness Committee.  He also serves as Secretary of the Board of Funders Together.

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