In our 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, Funders Together named racial equity as a strategic priority. We are committed to helping philanthropy understand the current and historical structural policies that lead to racial inequity in the homelessness system and to work with our members and partners to figure out philanthropy’s role in changing these structures.
Because of our own internal learning, Funders Together has identified several internal organizational priorities to ensure that we are “walking the talk” and advancing equity through our internal policies and operations. We plan to work on these organizational priorities, which include developing a racial equity statement and reviewing our HR policies, in 2019.
Additionally, many of our partners and members call on Funders Together to lead conversations about racial equity and homelessness, indicating that Funders Together is a trusted source to do this work. Through our racial equity work, members and partners are not only learning more about structural racism that leads to inequity but are also starting to understand why we must disaggregate data, focus conversations on structural racism, and move away from talking about only diversity and inclusion.
How We're Doing This
We know that we cannot support our members in addressing racial inequity without understanding the issue ourselves. Funders Together staff and board have been doing our internal learning through reading, discussion, and trainings. In 2018, we learned from experts like Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law; Titus Kaphar, artist and 2018 MacArthur Genius; and Marc Dones and Jeff Olivet from SPARC (Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities).
Several staff members also attended conferences and trainings to deepen their own knowledge and understanding. Some of these opportunities included the Facing Race conference in Detroit and a training on Facilitation for Racial Justice through the Interaction Institute for Social Change. These professional development opportunities help Funders Together facilitate well-designed and productive conversations with our members about racial equity and homelessness.
Together the FTEH board and staff spent a day-long training with ABFE to determine a shared language for talking about race and why it is important to focus on structural racism. Evaluation results showed that our board had the lowest starting point and greatest positive movement on understanding various race-focused terms and knowledge about structural racism because of this training with ABFE. One board member said after the meeting:
“I wanted to thank you for a really terrific board meeting. I spent time with my notes from our racial equity training this morning in preparation for our own board meeting this afternoon. That day was hugely helpful in organizing my thinking...Thank you for your vision and leadership. It’s invaluable to me.” - Butler Family Fund
External Programming, Online Resources, and Technical Assistance
We kicked off a suite of racial equity programming for our general membership in 2018. We started with a convening in February 2018 to bring together SPARC (Supporting Partnerships for Anti-Racist Communities) and national and regional community leaders for an in-depth conversation about how to redesign homelessness prevention and response services with racial equity. The goal of this convening was to leave with a menu of strategies for systems transformation in each SPARC community and the right metrics to track community success.
Throughout 2018, we hosted several more racial equity programs, including a funder conversation on operationalizing racial equity in an organization, a webinar with SPARC about their Phase I study findings, a four-part webinar series with Race Matters Institute on a suite of racial equity tools, and an online racial equity resources page for members. Some of the outcomes from these programs include:
Operationalizing Racial Equity: During our Funders Institute, we held an intimate conversation with funders about very tactical ways to start operationalizing racial equity in one’s organization. Funders called this a very beneficial conversation and shared the impact it had for them:
“Thanks to you and your team for a fantastic experience at the Funders Institute! I left with a ton of valuable insights to share with our team and I particularly enjoyed the frank conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Looking forward to the next Funders event!” - PetSmart Charities
SPARC Webinar: 41 attendees gained grounding in why we must disaggregate data and why poverty alone does not predict one’s homelessness. One participant shared that because of this webinar, she talked to her communications team to say that their organization’s messaging around poverty and homelessness needed to focus on race. She shared that “I learned that there is data that proves poverty alone doesn’t predict homelessness."
“It was a great session and the information shared was helpful in furthering my understanding of racial inequities in homelessness.” -Weingart Foundation
RMI Webinar Series: We held two of four webinars in this series in 2018. Forty members, non-members, and staff from philanthropy serving organizations signed up to participate. Participants have been engaged in these webinars in a way we usually don’t see in other online programs and have been actively sharing questions, experiences, and resources with each other. One participant said that this series has been “tremendously helpful already.”
Online racial equity resources: Our racial equity resources page, which we will continue to update as new resources come out, pulls research, reports, blog posts, and resources for both the homelessness field and philanthropy about racial equity. Additionally, we work to make sure that as many resources as possible include a racial equity lens, something that has not gone unnoticed by members:
“We read all your emails and like that you especially have so many resources with a racial equity lens, that is why we continue to stay members.” - Meyer Memorial Trust
Additionally, Funders Together has provided technical assistance to members by providing input and resources on an individual basis and facilitating conversations for foundation staff about their grantmaking strategy and racial equity.
This session re-framed my language for discussing homelessness and gave me so many resources to explore further! So glad I could learn from @AmandaAndere and @stchan11 at @funderstogether. https://t.co/h1RZnyEf2y— Sara E. Cohen (@SaraECohen) December 13, 2018
Our members appreciate this kind of hands-on assistance, sharing with us that:
“Your insights and the references you provided are giving me a great starting point to think about what type of approach might work for us as we enter into to this space, hopefully more deliberately.” - PetSmart Charities
In order to truly address racism, change needs to happen at a systems level through policy. Funders Together aims to include both a racial equity and advocacy lens into all our programming. The combination of the two solidifies the message that both are needed to end homelessness for all. We have also worked to ensure philanthropy’s priorities around racial equity are in alignment with our national partners by being at the table to give insight, such as providing feedback and guidance on the USICH Strategic Plan; Home, Together; and how it incorporates addressing racial disparities and equity.
Partnership in the Field
Our partners regularly call on Funders Together to participate in and present on racial equity at convenings and conferences. In 2018, Funders Together presented at least seven times at partner convenings, ranging from local organizations such as Friendship Place in Washington, DC, to national partners working on a range of issues including chronic homelessness, LGBTQ youth homelessness, and veteran homelessness.
Additionally, Funders Together has been a leader in convening national housing and homelessness organizations at conferences to create a space for partners to share what they’re learning and working on. As a result of these informal gatherings, national partners will begin convening in 2019 formally as a national working group on racial equity.
#EndingHomelessness & Housing leaders coming together at #FacingRace for the first time! The most important step in racial justice is making the commitment to learn & be in community. Too many orgs to tag all! pic.twitter.com/b69nxnqdEZ— Amanda Misiko Andere (@AmandaAndere) November 9, 2018
Funders Together Racial Equity Working Group
Knowing that we cannot do this work alone and that we have much to learn from our members, we hosted calls with several of our members who serve on Funders Together’s internal Racial Equity Working Group. This group advises Funders Together staff and board on policies and programming to advance racial equity, as well as our learning agenda. At the urging of this group, Funders Together decided to launch a new two-year community of practice, Foundations for Racial Equity, that will kick off January 2019.