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

Grant-making in the Homelessness Area: One Foundation’s Strategic Initiative to Help End Homelessness in Washington, D.C.

The William S. Abell Foundation decided five years ago that it needed to take a fresh look at its grant-making in the homelessness area since little progress had been made in the District in addressing homelessness. 

The William S. Abell Foundation is a small ($70M in assets) private family foundation which has funded nonprofits engaged in helping the homeless in the District of Columbia during the 25 years of its existence. The Foundation decided five years ago that it needed to take a fresh look at its grant-making in the homelessness area since little progress had been made in the District in addressing homelessness. The Foundation’s Board established a Homelessness Committee which undertook an intensive self-education process to determine what was working and what was not in the District and elsewhere. Based on this groundwork, the Board undertook a five year Strategic Initiative during which it has spent $8.3 M in trying to work with others who have been trying to change D.C. from a shelter based model to a model which seeks to end homelessness.

We have worked closely with Funders Together and the leading members of that organization in formulating our grant-making strategy and also in its implementation. Our grant-making has met with some measure of success and there have been important lessons learned along the way. We have prepared a Final Report on our Strategic Initiative which might be of interest to other funders interested in devising or improving their grant-making strategies in the homelessness area. A link to the final Report is:http://www.williamsabellfoundation.org/system/files/WSAbell_Fdn_Homelessness_Report.pdf. The Report contains a short Executive Summary which provides an overview of our strategic initiative. Of particular interest to funders is a detailed section of the specific lessons we learned from our five years of intensive and proactive grant-making.

Tom_Nurmi.jpgTom Nurmi is a member of the Board of Trustees of the William S. Abell Foundation and chair of its Homelessness Committee.  He also serves as Secretary of the Board of Funders Together.

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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