A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Mobilizing Philanthropy to End Homelessness in Pacific Northwest

Bill Gates, Sr. told a group of funders gathered at his Foundation’s new Seattle campus on Friday to “be bold, be imaginative, and to work together” to end homelessness. 

Bill Gates, Sr. told a group of funders gathered at his Foundation’s new Seattle campus on Friday to “be bold, be imaginative, and to work together” to end homelessness. Gates was addressing representatives from more than 40 funding organizations-private, family, and community foundations; United Ways; and corporate givers from the Pacific Northwest and across the country-who spent the day strategizing about ways philanthropy can be the catalyst to end homelessness in their communities.

The meeting, “Catalytic Philanthropy and Ending Homelessness: Aligning Resources and Creating Change in the Pacific Northwest,” was jointly sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationCampion Foundation, and Funders Together to End Homelessness. It featured discussions on the various ways that philanthropy can help build and lead the movement to prevent and end homelessness.

Create Great Impact by Leveraging Modest Resources

After explaining that philanthropy’s individual and collective resources are small in comparison to the amount of public resources devoted to the issue of homelessness, Funders Together Board Chair David Wertheimer (of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) said the goal for the day was to help philanthropy start thinking about the best ways to use modest resources wisely. “We can create big outcomes that are not proportional to the size of our investments,” he said. “The key is to identify the levers or activities that have the greatest potential for significant impact over time.”

To that end, the day was comprised of several panel discussions featuring funders who talked about the activities they are successfully pursuing in their communities, including:

  • Convening and collaborating: The philanthropic sector can play a powerful role bringing together community stakeholders, helping to interpret differing perspectives and find common ground, and identifying specific ways to work together for the benefit of all.
  • Effective grantmaking: Philanthropy should not only be funding what works to end homelessness (proven solutions to homelessness include interventions focused on prevention, diversion, coordinated entry, and housing linked to an array of tailored services), but also aligning their efforts with those of other community stakeholders as well as supporting research and the gathering of high-quality data.
  • Advocacy: Communicating to all stakeholders about what works to solve homelessness-including sharing data and outcomes with policymakers-is critical to bringing prevention and housing-based solutions to scale in our communities.

The gathered funders also heard from Barbara Poppe and Jennifer Ho of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). They suggested that funders familiarize themselves with Opening Doors, the federal plan to end homelessness, which contains a variety of strategies that funders can pursue. In urging the gathered funders to step up their efforts to end homelessness, Jennifer Ho said: “We can’t be complacent and keep doing things the same way when we KNOW if we did them a different way we could actually end homelessness.”

The day ended with David Wertheimer and the Campion Foundation’s Sonya Campion asking those gathered to join Funders Together to End Homelessness. “We need your voice,” they said, “to help us make some noise and end homelessness.”

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We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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