At Funders Together to End Homelessness, it is the mission of our members to end and prevent homelessness through systemic change and proven solutions, like housing.
In 2016, San Francisco media outlets coordinated their coverage to shine a light on homelessness in the city. We applaud this effort and hope to help shed a light, not only in San Francisco but nationally, on the real issue: access to safe and affordable housing.
Ideas to consider when thinking about homelessness across the country
Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) assists people who experiencing homelessness chronically and may also suffer from illnesses, disabilities, mental health issues, or substance use disorders. It provides long-term rental assistance and supportive services.
Rapid re-housing assists a wide arrange of individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The goal of this model is to help people obtain housing quickly and stay housed. It provides short-term rental assistance along with supportive services, such as rent and move-in assistance and case management.
- Permanent Supportive Housing has a long-term housing retention rate of up to 98% in one study.
- Rapid re-housing helps people exit homelessness quickly and remain houses – various studies have found between 75 to 91% remain housed a year after being rapidly re-housed.
- One study found an average cost savings on emergency services (i.e. shelters) of $31,545 per person housed in a Housing First program over the course of two years. (Source)
2. Collaborations: Funders working together as a network is an effective and efficient way to enact change.
3. Partnership: Philanthropy, as well as the government, cannot do it alone. Private dollars can push and leverage public funding, and building a strong public-private partnership throughout the community can influence and effectively create systems change.
In San Diego, the group of funders was able to leverage $240,000 into $10 million of public funding to support the operational expense of to create permanent supportive and convert existing transitional housing.
- The Funders Together to End Homelessness – Los Angeles chapter has more than thirty funder members who meet quarterly to learn about and discuss new solutions to homelessness in LA County. Many of these members are also part of Los Angeles County’s Home For Good Funders Collaborative, led by the local United Way. Between 2012 and 2015 the Funders Collaborative aligned over $650 million in public and philanthropic resources toward permanent solutions to homelessness in Los Angeles County.
- In Houston, Funders Together members are part of The Way Home, a collaborative made up of private-public partnerships utilizing community-wide strategies to end and prevent homelessness. The 2016 Point-In-Time Count showed The Way Home continuing a five-year trend in reducing homelessness - a 57% decrease since 2011.
- In King County, The Raikes Foundation spearheaded a collaboration of private and public funders who are focused on preventing and ending youth homelessness. Through this collaboration, almost $5 million in private-public funds have been dedicated to the cause.
- In the counties surrounding Seattle, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works with government and nonprofit partners to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time. Since its conception in 2005, this partnership, All Home, has been instrumental in creating 8,337 units of permanent housing of which 85% of the people housed were stabilized there for almost two years.
4. People first: At Funders Together, we stress the importance of being "people first", therefore we say "people/person/family/youth experiencing homelessness" instead of "the homeless" or "homeless person". We believe that experiencing homelessness should not define a person and encourage you to also put people first when talking about this topic.
Resources on solutions that work to end and prevent homelessness
- National Alliance to End Homelessness San Francisco Homeless Project
- Solutions that Work to End Homelessness
- Improving Housing Outcome with Rapid Re-Housing
- Housing Based Solutions Can End Homelessness
- Family Homelessness 2.0
- Shifting the Focus from Criminalization to Housing
- National Alliance to End Homelessness Housing First Fact Sheet
- Video: Ending Family Homelessness - From Family Homeless Programs to a Crisis Resolution System
- Core Components of Rapid Re-Housing
- Editorial: To End Homelessness, California Must Begin With Housing
Resources on general homelessness information
Funders can have a strong influence in the community. Use your voice and influence to spread key messages around ending homelessness through out the online community as well!
Our Messaging Guide for Funders provides sample tweets and Facebook posts that you can share on your social media pages. You can edit to fit your foundation’s voice and provide links to articles, case studies, research papers that support how housing-based solutions work to end homelessness.
We are happy to connect with you with experts that can help inform your articles who are all ready and willing to speak with you on any of the above thoughts. Our Communications & Public Affairs Manager, Lauren Bennett, can be reached at 617-245-0314 x107 or you can call their offices directly:
- Amanda Andere, Funders Together CEO: 703-966-5726 (cell)
- Bill Pitkin, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation: 818-851-3721 (Communications Manager: Julia Friedman)
- Kollin Min, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: 206-770-1645 (Communications Lead: Anne Martens)
- Janice Elliott, Melville Charitable Trust: 203-901-1065 x108 (Communications Manager: Bonnie Rosenbaum)
Funders Together Overview
Funders Together to End Homelessness is a national network of 200 foundations and United Ways dedicated to ending and preventing all forms of homelessness by supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions. Funders Together works to expand philanthropy’s impact and influence to advance the movement to prevent and end homelessness. Membership is open to all funders currently engaged or interested in funding homelessness or related areas. Funders Together, an approved 501(c)(3), is a virtually based in organization. For more information, visit www.FundersTogether.org.
If you have questions about a resource or where to find additional information, or would like to schedule time to talk with our CEO or a Funders Together member, please contact Lauren Bennett, Communications & Public Affairs Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.245.0314 x107. You may also reach out to our available experts directly at the numbers listed above.
Another budget cycle is upon us, and philanthropy's involvement in understanding the budget process and how to be participate in the budget debate is key to ensuring programs that work to prevent and end homelessness remain adequately funded. Steve Berg, Vice President for Programs and Policy at the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and Martha Toll, Executive Director at the Butler Family Fund dive into why the budget matters and what to do about it.
In May 2017, Funders Together hosted our Advocacy Update webinar to bring philanthropy up to speed on news around the FY18 budget and other policy issues that affect housing and homelessness issues. With this webinar, the learning continues by putting knowledge to action.Read more
Why is Funders Together to End Homelessness addressing racial inequity? Our CEO, Amanda Andere, explains how philanthropy's involvement in focusing on the structural issues that cause racial inequity can create a path to truly making sure homelessness is rare, brief, and one-time.Read more
On June 23rd, FTEH Board Member David Wertheimer spoke in Orlando, FL, at The Road Home Breakfast gathering of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. Still reeling from the shock of the deadly attack against the LGBTQ community at the Pulse nightclub that took 49 young lives and wounded 53 others, the city’s officials nonetheless made the decision to move ahead with The Road Home event, which became yet one more step in the long and painful journey to a community’s recovery.Read more
What happens when cities start to declare homelessness as an "emergency"? Where do we go from here? Funders Together Board Member, David Wertheimer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation explores how these declarations can aid the fight to end and prevent homelessness.Read more
As we've been learning about the many different crises that can catapult a family into homelessness, we've developed a version 2.0 response to family homelessness. What is it?Read more
The amount of legislative activity that is permissible for a section 501(c)(3) organization is dependent upon both the organization’s classification—that is, whether it is a “public charity” or a “private foundation”—and its size. Part I of this memorandum briefly describes the definition of legislative activities (i.e., lobbying) generally. Parts II and III address how much lobbying activity public charities and private foundations can engage in without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. Part IV describes the interplay of the lobbying limitations in the context of private foundation grants to public charities that lobby.
Part I: Definition of Legislative Activities
An activity engaged in by a section 501(c)(3) organization, including advocacy, is treated as a legislative activity only if it is an attempt to influence legislation.
Lobbying activity may include attempting to influence legislation through direct contact with the relevant legislative body or indirectly through “grassroots” activities (i.e., lobbying aimed at persuading members of the general public to contact their legislative representatives.) Thus, a 501(c)(3) organization is generally regarded as attempting to influence legislation if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation by (a) contacting members of a legislative body (or their staff) with respect to legislation; or (b) urging the public to contact members of a legislative body with respect to legislation.
Legislation need not be introduced in the legislature for an organization to be treated as engaging in lobbying activities with respect to legislation. Rather, lobbying also includes specific legislative proposals that are either favored or opposed by the organization, even if they have not yet been introduced.
Legislation also includes the confirmation of administrative appointees, Congressional resolutions, state and foreign legislation, local and city council legislation, and referenda and ballot measures. It does not, however, include regulations or actions exclusively within the executive branch.
An organization can be treated as lobbying (or influencing legislation) even if it does so through an agent or gives money to another for the purpose of facilitating lobbying. (See Part IV of this memorandum, below.)
Not all activities that touch on legislative issues are treated for tax purposes as attempts to influence legislation. Educational activities that touch on legislative issues, but are objective and do not have a purpose of advocating for a particular position are not treated for tax purposes as attempts to influence legislation. For example, the publication of scholarly studies, or of objective, nonpartisan analyses of legislative proposals, will not necessarily be treated as restricted legislative activity even if these studies or reports endorse a particular position. On the other hand, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has taken the position in some cases that educational activity that is otherwise proper becomes improper (i.e., legislative) where the purpose of such activity is the active advocacy of some specific legislative program.
In addition, providing technical assistance at the request of the legislature by responding to a request to provide testimony at a congressional hearing is not treated as lobbying. Discussion with legislators of broad social or economic problems also does not constitute lobbying, as long as the discussion does not address the merits of specific legislation.
It is very difficult to draw bright lines in this area, and even a comprehensive review of the decided cases and rulings would be of limited help, because the determinations of the IRS and the courts tend to be very fact-specific.
As a general proposition, however, it can be said that 30-second TV spots or newspaper ads that advocate a particular position, that are one-sided, that do not present backup data or opposing viewpoints, and that are timed to tie into legislators’ or voters’ consideration of legislative proposals, will be vulnerable to attack as not being “educational” within the meaning of the Treasury regulations.
While a section 501(c)(3) organization may be able to engage in legislative activities described above, it cannot engage in any political campaign activities. Section 501(c)(3) organizations are not allowed to participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, regardless of their tax classification as a public charity or private foundation. Even de minimis participation in a political campaign would jeopardize the organization's status as a section 501(c)(3) organization and/or result in the imposition of an excise tax upon the organization.
Part II: Permissible Legislative Activity by Public Charities
The Substantial Activities Test
The category of so-called “public charities” includes those charitable and educational organizations that enjoy a broad base of public financial support. Prominent examples would be the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society, and the United Way. Such organizations are permitted to engage in legislative activity—both “direct” and “grassroots” lobbying—so long as such activity is not “substantial” in relation to the organization’s overall activity. What constitutes “substantial” activities has never been defined with any precision; as the IRS likes to say, it depends on all the “facts and circumstances” of the particular case. At least one decided case suggests that activity that represents less than five percent of an organization’s overall activity will not be considered substantial.
How legislative activity is to be measured is another unanswered question. Certainly, financial expenditures, both direct expenses and reasonably allocated overhead, will be considered. In addition, time spent by volunteer workers and other factors may also be considered in particular cases.
The Section 501(h) Safe Harbor
Because of the uncertainty regarding the scope of legislative activities that a public charity may engage in before those activities are treated as “substantial,” public charities often elect, under section 501(h), to have their legislative activities measured by a mathematical formula. As a result, the section 501(h) election effectively provides a safe harbor for permissible legislative activities. For an electing organization, the permissible amount of legislative activity is then determined by reference to the organization’s overall “exempt purposes” budget, as follows:
If overall budget is
The permissible lobbying limit is
Not over $500,000
20% of the exempt purpose expenditures
Over $500,000 but not over $1,000,000
$100,000 plus 15% of the excess of the exempt purpose expenditures over $500,000
Over $1,000,000 but not over $1,500,000
$175,000 plus 10% of the excess of the exempt purpose expenditures over $1,000,000
$225,000 plus 5% of the excess of the exempt purpose expenditures over $1,500,000
There is a statutory maximum lobbying limit of $1 million per year.
Of the amounts determined under the foregoing formula, 100% may be spent on so-called “direct lobbying” (i.e., lobbying directed at the persons who will vote on the legislation, which in the case of ballot initiatives includes the voting public). Under a separate statutory limitation, only 25% of whatever amount is determined under the foregoing formula can be spent on “grassroots lobbying” (as defined above).
Part III: Legislative Activity by Private Foundations
Private foundations are section 501(c)(3) organizations that typically have, and are supported by, investments and endowments producing income used for grant-making purposes and that do not receive substantial financial support from the general public. Private foundations, as a subcategory of section 501(c)(3), are defined in section 509 of the Code. Prominent examples are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Pursuant to sections 4940 through 4946 of the Code, private foundations are subject to a series of significant restrictions that do not apply to public charities. Among these restrictions, section 4945 imposes an absolute prohibition on engaging in legislative activities. In other words, private foundations, unlike public charities, are not allowed to engage in legislative activity even to an insubstantial extent. The penalty for violations of these rules can range from tax penalties, measured by the amounts improperly expended for prohibited activity, up to revocation of the organization’s tax exemption (in certain cases of repeated or flagrant violations).
However, private foundations may engage in advocacy that is not treated as a legislative activity, such as permissible “educational” activity described in Part I of this memorandum. In addition, a private foundation will not be treated as attempting to influence legislation in discussions with governmental officials provided that:
- The subject of the discussions is a program which is jointly funded by the foundation and the government or is a new program which may be jointly funded by the foundation and the government;
- The discussions are undertaken for the purpose of exchanging data and information on the subject matter of the program; and
- Such discussions are not undertaken by foundation managers in order to make any direct attempt to persuade government officials or employees to take particular positions on specific legislative issues other than such program.
Part IV: Private Foundation Grants to Public Charities that Lobby
Amounts expended by a private foundation’s public charity grantees for lobbying activities can be attributed to the private foundation in certain circumstances. In particular, attribution can (and is likely to) occur when the foundation has earmarked its grant funds to be used to finance the lobbying activity in question. Of course, whether sufficient “earmarking” has occurred to result in attribution may be clear in some instances and not in others. The IRS has not developed specific rules to determine whether earmarking has occurred; rather, a facts and circumstances test is applied.
There are two types of grants that would ordinarily be permitted (i.e., the grants will not be treated as impermissible attempts to lobby by the private foundation):
- General support grants, so long as the grant is not earmarked to be used by the recipient public charity in attempts to influence legislation; and
- Specific project grants, so long as the grant is not earmarked to be used in an attempt to influence legislation and the sum of all grants made by the private foundation for the same project for the same year does not exceed the amount budgeted, for the year of the grant, by the grantee organization for activities of the project that are not attempts to influence legislation. In such a situation—setting aside the fungibility of money—the argument is that none of the foundation’s funds have been used for lobbying.
1 All section references are to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (the “Code”) unless otherwise specified.
2 Treas. Reg. § 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3)(ii).
3 Treas. Reg. § 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3).
4 The Treasury regulations include an example in which a private foundation publishes a report on the use of pesticides, which concludes that the disadvantages of using pesticides are greater than the advantages and that prompt legislative regulation of pesticides is needed. The example concludes that the report is within the exception for nonpartisan analysis since it presents information on both sides of the legislative controversy and presents a sufficiently full and fair exposition on the pertinent facts to enable the public or an individual to form an independent opinion or conclusion. Treas. Reg. § 53.4945-2(d)(1)(vii), ex.2.
5 See Seasongood v. Commissioner, 227 F.2d 207 (6th Circ. 1955) (finding that legislative activities were not substantial).
6 Section 4911(c)(2).
7 Section 4911(c)(4).
8 Treas. Reg. § 53.4945-2(a)(3).
9 Treas. Reg. § 53.4945-2(a)(5)(i).
10 Treas. Reg. § 53.4945-2(a)(6)(i).
11 Treas. Reg. § 53.4945-2(a)(6)(ii).
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Funders Together Resources
Funders networks have been critical to bringing together all kinds of grantmakers within a community and forging commitments to a systems approach. What are the key elements in building an effective funders network in your own community?
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- Have a vision and establish clear goals
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- Identify your funding priorities
- Communicate with all potential partners and with your community
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