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

2021 Funders Institute Agenda

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Agenda is subject to change without notice. Last updated: September 21, 2021


Tuesday, September 28 | 2-4p ET / 1-3p CT / 12-2p MT / 11a-1p PT

See a list of Funders Institute speakers

Opening & Welcome

Join us in kicking off the Funders Institute! Amanda Andere, CEO of Funders Together, will share an update about Funders Together's new strategic direction and focus on housing justice and liberation.

Keynote: Fireside Chat with Clint Smith, Author of How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

Funders Together to End Homelessness is excited to announce Clint Smith III as the keynote speaker for our 2021 Funders Institute. Clint Smith III is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of the narrative nonfiction book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America, which was a #1 New York Times bestseller, and the poetry collection Counting Descent, which won the 2017 Literary Award for Best Poetry Book from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. 

As Martha Toll, author, Funders Together board member, and founding Executive Director of the Butler Family Fund, wrote in her Washington Post book review of How the Word Is Passed, Smith has “much to offer about teaching (and unlearning) history, the toxic effects of racism and public policy.” At a moment in time when people are deepening their awareness of structural racial inequities, it is critical to understand the legacy of slavery in our country and its ongoing consequences hidden in plain view. Join us for this keynote fireside chat between Clint Smith and Martha Toll to listen and challenge your own understanding of our history, the stories we tell about it, and the spaces we move through every day.

Fireside chat facilitation by Martha Anne Toll, author of Three Muses and Funders Together Board Member

Martha Anne Toll is the founding Executive Director at the Butler Family Fund and a board member at FTEH. She is now a full time writer. Her novel THREE MUSES, won the Petrichor Prize for Finely Crafted Fiction and will be published a year from now, in September 2022. Under her leadership, the Butler Family Fund developed and expanded two major philanthropic programs with a deep commitment to racial equity: advocacy to end homelessness and to fight injustices in the criminal “justice” system. Martha now works fulltime as a writer. Her debut novel, Three Muses, is the 2020 winner of the Petrichor Prize for Finely Crafted Fiction and is forthcoming in Fall 2022. Martha regularly publishes book reviews and essays on NPR Books and in The Millions, as well as in the Washington Post, The Rumpusand elsewhere. She has served as a nominator for the annual NPR Book Concierge since 2017. Her personal essay, “Dayenu,” was selected for inclusion in the anthology Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19.

Concurrent Breakout Sessions

After our keynote, participants will have the opportunity to join one of three or four concurrent breakout sessions to dive deep on a specific issue related to homelessness, racial equity, and housing justice. 

  • 1A: The Intersection of Attacks on Critical Race Theory with Housing Justice Goals

Across the country, there are vocal opponents of critical race theory (CRT) attempting to ban crucial racial analysis of systems and policies. For some, it may seem like these attacks on CRT are separate from the work of ending homelessness and that the best path forward is to pay little attention to this opposition. However, the disparities we see today are the result of the exclusion of people of color from opportunities for home ownership, wealth accumulation, and economic mobility and because of historical and persistent racial discrimination in employment, healthcare, education, and the criminal legal system. Philanthropy has as much a responsibility as anyone else to ensure that these attacks on CRT do not erode efforts toward racial and housing justice goals. Join this session if you are interested in brainstorming with other funders what philanthropy’s response can and should be.


- Tonia Wellons, President and CEO, Greater Washington Community Foundation

- Monique King-Viehland, Associate Vice President, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Urban Institute

- Edward Jones, Vice President of Programs, ABFE

  • 1B: What Should Philanthropy Do to Fight the Criminalization of Homelessness?

No one wants to see unsheltered homelessness in their community. However, the urgency to address unsheltered homelessness has meant that many groups are pushing “solutions” that harm people experiencing homelessness, violate their rights, and do little to address the root causes of homelessness. In this session, participants will hear from local and national advocates about how they are pushing back against the criminalization of homelessness, resources that demonstrate the ineffectiveness of these laws, and how philanthropy can support local and national advocates in protecting the rights and safety of people experiencing homelessness.


- Eric Ares, Manager, Homeless Systems Change, United Way of Greater Los Angeles

Eric Tars, Legal Director, National Homelessness Law Center

DeBorah Gilbert White, Founder and Coordinator, HerStory Ensemble

  • 1C: National Efforts to Push for Housing as a Human Right

Housing is a basic human need. We know that safe, accessible, and affordable housing results in positive health, education, and economic outcomes, and we know that housing ends homelessness. So, what will it take to help others believe that housing is a human right and to change policy to guarantee housing for all? In this breakout session, we’ll hear from a national advocacy organization and a national grassroots organizer about their advocacy efforts, values, and ideas for how philanthropy can support their work.


- Ryan Moser, Vice President of Strategy & Impact, CSH

Tara Raghuveer, Homes Guarantee Campaign Director, People's Action

- Sarah Hunter, Owner-Worker, Housing Justice Collective

  • 1D: Organizing Against Anti-Transgender Policies in the Fight for Housing Justice

The National Center for Transgender Equality reports that one in five transgender people in the United States has been discriminated against when seeking a home, and more than one in ten have been evicted from their homes, because of their gender identity. With a lack of legal protections from gender identity discrimination on both the state and local levels, evictions and homelessness of transgender people will continue to persist. In this session, we will hear from national and grassroots organizers about the advocacy opportunities at the intersection of anti-transgender policies and housing and homelessness.


- Chantelle Fisher-Borne, Project Director for the Out in the South Initiative, Funders For LGBTQ Issues

- Dylan Francis Waguespeck, Public Policy and External Affairs Director, True Colors United

Elly Bludworth, Director of Youth Housing, Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL)

- Harmony Giovanni, Youth Advocate, Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL)


Wednesday, September 29 | 2-4p ET / 1-3p CT / 12-2p MT / 11a-1p PT

See a list of Funders Institute speakers

Opening & Welcome

We'll set the stage for the day's discussion with art, music, and reflections.  


You asked, we listened! Several of you have requested for more informal networking time. We will be intentional and thoughtful in how we create an energizing space for participants to connect with new peers or deepen connections with old friends, as well as process any thoughts and lessons from Day 1 of the Funders Institute.

Networking Prompts

1. Name, organization, location. Something awesome that's happening at work or in my community is...

2. Something I heard yesterday that is sticking with me is...

3. Open discussion. Take the conversation where there is energy!

Funder Pop-Up Talks

These short talks, also known as “pop-ups” from when speakers used to “pop up” from their table and share during our in-person events, are an opportunity for participants to hear about work that other funders are working on or thinking about. Pop-up speakers will share for roughly 8-10 minutes each, followed by time for Q&A. We will continue to add pop-up speakers as we confirm their topics, but we're already excited about the ones we are ready to share with you:

  • Pop-Up: Reflections About the Equitable Evaluation Framework and Homelessness

From February through June 2021, HealthSpark Foundation and twenty other foundations participated in a six-month journey of self-reflection and situational assessment to unpack Equitable Evaluation Principles and explore current internal evaluation practices and orthodoxies. In this pop-up, Chinwe Onykere, Director of Equity and Inclusion at HealthSpark Foundation, will offer her reflections about what she learned and how it intersects with their foundation's work in ending homelessness. Read Funders Together's reflections from this learning cohort. 

Speaker: Chinwe Onykere, Director of Equity and Inclusion, HealthSpark Foundation

  • Pop-Up: Lessons Learned from Our Affordable Housing Initiative 

In their report, Moving the Needle: A Reflection on Five Years of Investment in Oregon’s Affordable Housing Landscape, Meyer Memorial Trust staff reflects back on the challenges, setbacks, clear “wins” and lessons learned from designing and implementing a strategic philanthropic initiative. In addition to robust and lively discussions among the team about what they take forward from this work, they reached out to dozens of key partners in nonprofits, other funders, and the government to get more perspective on how their Affordable Housing Initiative was received.  

Speaker: Michael Parkhurst, Housing Opportunities Program Officer, Meyer Memorial Trust

  • Pop-Up: Lessons Learned from Administering Federal Resources and Preventing Evictions

Since April 2020, United Way of King County, in partnership with the City of Seattle and King County, has provided rent assistance to more than 10,000 households impacted by the COVID-19 health crisis. In this pop-up, Lauren McGown, Associate Vice President for Ending Homelessness & Poverty at United Way King County, will discuss how they administered their recent federal funds on eviction prevention and worked with local landlords to reduce the amount owed. In addition, she will discuss how they are supporting and working with a group of BIPOC community leaders who’ve formed the Equitable Recovery & Reconciliation Alliance (ERRA), which is intended to provide BIPOC community voices to lead the systemic changes needed to address economic recovery and redress systemic racism.

Speaker: Lauren McGowan, Associate Vice President for Ending Homelessness & Poverty, United Way King County

  • Pop-Up: Faith Communities for Just Reentry Campaign's Policy Platform

Fifteen to twenty thousand New Yorkers are caught each year in the cycle of homelessness and incarceration. Four in every five are people of color. During the COVID-19 pandemic, over 2,500 people have been released, many without identification, critical medication, or coronavirus testing. Trinity Church Wall Street will share the policy platform central to their Faith Communities for Just Reentry Campaign. Together, we can help our justice-involved neighbors find and sustain a place they can call home. 

Speaker: Terri Davis-Merchant, Program Director for Housing & Homelessness, Trinity Church Wall Street

Virtual Reception | 5pm ET

Join us for networking, camaraderie, joy, and laughter during an optional, informal networking reception. This reception will last one hour and take place via Zoom. 


Thursday, September 30 | 2-4p ET / 1-3p CT / 12-2p MT / 11a-1p PT

See a list of Funders Institute speakers

Opening & Welcome

We'll set the stage for the day's deep dive into homelessness narrative change. We encourage participants to reflect in advance about how holding power and the ability to control the narrative are connected, examples of messaging campaigns outside of homelessness and housing that have been successful, and what messages related to homelessness you are hearing in your community. 

Narrative Change Research: What is it Telling Us? 

No one likes seeing homelessness in their community, but building the public will to address homelessness requires effectively framing the issue in a way that speaks to people’s values and the possibility of success. We also need to consider how we approach narrative change and shift our own thinking in order to be most effective and speak to people's values. With the right tools, we can do a better job crafting narratives that bring people together and create champions for our cause. During this plenary session, participants will hear findings from two narrative change research projects and how philanthropy can support the field in using the research to build public will.


- Dr. Tiffany Manuel, President and CEO, TheCaseMade

- Sarah Amour-Jones, Director of Communications, Melville Trust

- Mark Horvath, Founder, Invisible People

- Mike Dickerson, Invisible People and Ktown for All

- Barb Poppe, Founder and Principal, Barbra Poppe and Associates


Deep Dives: What Do We Do Now?

After the plenary, participants will have an opportunity in breakout rooms to ask follow up questions and discuss and strategize what needs to happen next. How can philanthropy help support a repository of research that the homelessness field can easily access? How should philanthropy be using this research in their own policy and advocacy efforts? What work is still needed to shift the narrative around homelessness?

Conversation Facilitators

- Dr. Tiffany Manuel, President and CEO, TheCaseMade

- Sarah Amour-Jones, Director of Communications, Melville Trust

- Mark Horvath, Founder, Invisible People

- Mike Dickerson, Invisible People and Ktown for All

- Barb Poppe, Founder and Principal, Barbra Poppe and Associates

- Marisol Bello, Communications Director of the New Narrative Hub led by Melville Charitable Trust and the Hilton Foundation 

Closing Reflections

We'll end with closing thoughts and remarks... and maybe an impromptu dance party. 


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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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