Funders come in all shapes, sizes, and capacities. How can United Ways use their influence and capabilities within the community to end homelessness?
On any given night, there are more than 500,000 people experiencing homelessness in the United States. There are a number of United Ways who are participating in or leading efforts across sectors to address this. As many of us are continuing to discover the myriad of unique talents we share with this community, we want to create space to continuously communicate and learn from our United Way peers. Here are some trends we are noticing:
- Setting the Table-- United Ways sit in the community as a nonprofit, funder, partner, advocate, and community leader; we walk in all worlds. We not only bring people to the table but create the space for them to lead towards our collective goals. Everyone has a unique role to play in ending homelessness, and ours in many ways is finding and fostering those potential change-makers into remarkable leaders.
- Our Seat At The Table--Workplace campaign models are deeply connected to the United Way brand and are the road to broadening your local business relationships. LA’s Business Leaders Task Force to End Homelessness, for example, was launched in 2010 by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, committing the business community’s resources and expertise to ensure the success of the plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness. Their support and advocacy has been instrumental to the formation of Home For Good’s key initiatives and continued progress to date.
- Owning Our Voice--One of the most powerful tools we have as philanthropists is one of the scariest to use: our voice. Taking a stance as a funder can be unnerving and even against our policies at times, but for many United Ways we live outside of these limitations. Though there are always other factors to consider, our biggest consideration can and should be our community, when deciding to advocate for those that need it most.
- Community Success Is Our Success-- Historically, the homeless services world required service providers to compete against one another towards the goal of ending homelessness, when in reality any one organization alone was incapable of ever completing or sustaining such a monumental task. To avoid setting service providers up for fighting and failure, we can move to offer dynamic funding that is transformative as opposed to transactional, and asks them to unite together for the success of our entire community by identifying shared aims and outcomes. It is in our name. It is in how we bring donors together. Now let’s make it how we change our communities for good.
As United Ways, we make space in our communities for real change to take place. Through the partnership with Funders Together, we are now offering to create that same space for ourselves to unite as peers. May we be the missing piece to this issue plaguing many of our communities? If you are interested in joining the conversation with other United Ways who are working to end homelessness, let us know!
Joanna Bomba is a Program Associate at United Way of Greater Los Angeles. She comes to us from the LA Mission where helped co-lead the CES Skid Row team during the first pilots of the system. She also works for the Home For Good team to refine the Coordinated Entry System for continued scale up and sustainability, and assists with management of the public and private resources which support the work of Los Angeles county partners through the Funders Collaborative.
Emily Bradley is a Program Associate for the Home For Good team focusing on engaging partners and activating the public around the issue of homelessness. She manages several communications pieces include Home For Good's website and social media platforms, as well as leads both ongoing partner meetings and supports major events for the team.