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

Foundations for Racial Equity: Forging New Relationships to Address Inequity and Injustice in Homelessness and Housing

On June 8-10, thirty-four funders from across the United States gathered virtually to kick off the second Foundations for Racial Equity (FRE) community of practice. We came together to forge new relationships, learn about the work that others are doing related to racial equity and ending homelessness, and to articulate goals that we want to work toward over the next two years. 

 

Showing Up Ready to Work 

An intentional part of designing Foundations for Racial Equity is ensuring that folks show up ready and willing to work. Responding to the requests of a few participants of color, we curated a list of foundational racial equity concepts and resources we expected participants to be familiar with before showing up to our opening convening. In assigning this as required knowledge, we were clear that while participants didn’t need to be “experts” in everything, they at least needed to come with a level of awareness and understanding to engage in meaningful dialogue. 

Foundational learning and pre-work included understanding: 

You can find some of these foundational concepts and additional resources on our racial equity resource page.  

 

What We Learned During the Convening 

We introduced the Spectrum of Extractive to Regenerative Philanthropy from Justice Funders to facilitate conversation about where folks are now and where they’d like to go. This spectrum is part of Justice Funders’ Resonance Framework for Philanthropic Transformation. Participants shared that the framework was helpful for painting a picture of a desired future state and that they appreciated hearing ideas from others about how to get there, and we talked about how it’s also important to recognize that a tool is just a tool. 

Screenshot of Justice Funders' Spectrum from Extractive to Regenerative Philanthropy 

We practiced deep listening through a storytelling exercise called appreciative interviews, where participants shared examples of when they were successful in advancing racial equity in small and big ways. Doing this pushed participants to practice active, intentional, and empathetic listening. One participant remarked that “You don’t often get to bring your story into the work, which is great and rare.”  

Through small group brainstorming and large group coaching, we also drafted questions and goals that we want to address and work toward over the course of the next two years and did a virtual gallery walk to help make learning visible. A few themes emerged from these goals: 

  • Shifting power, resources, and mindsets so that communities and people most impacted by homelessness/housing instability are driving the agenda and distribution of dollars 
  • Increasing transparency, accountability, and democratic decision-making in one’s grantmaking strategy and to increase trust with service providers, grassroots organizers, and people experiencing homelessness 
  • Creating more alignment and energy to shape advocacy activities and change policy at local and national levels 

Over the next two years, we'll continue to check in on these goals and questions and use them reflect on what's happening and what we're learning. For now, we'll share one question that Sean Dollard, Program Officer at the Colorado Health Foundation offered that all of us should ask ourselves every day: 

“True power-building and power-sharing occurs when folks most impacted by all forms of injustice in housing have power, voice, choice and agency to manifest liberation in their lives. So, how do we, as philanthropy, show up authentically and ensure power is centered where it should be?”  

 

What We’ll Explore Moving Forward 

As we continue to deepen our relationships over the next two years, we’ll explore some of the following topics as they relate to housing justice and ending homelessness: 

  • Power. Power came up in conversations in the context of the funder-grantee relationship, in working with people with lived expertise, in thinking about land and housing structures, and in wanting to support organizing and movement building. 
  • The impact of racism and white supremacy on homelessness and housing. We’ll explore topics like generational trauma, white dominant culture, and the connection between racial capitalism and homelessness. 
  • Policy and advocacy at local and federal levels. Two questions that have come up are “What’s happening at the federal level related to racial equity and homelessness?” and “How will that impact local communities, and what’s the role we as funders can play?” 
  • Grantmaking strategy and practices. These include practices such as participatory grantmaking, community-designed funding models, as well as how conversations about moving the board to adopt new grantmaking strategies that are laser-focused on race.  

Over the next two years, we are excited to continue to learn and build relationships with one another and to share with all of you what we’re learning and working on as we go along. 

 


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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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