Funders Together CEO, Amanda Andere, shares why it is so important to use the powerful tool of influence and story telling to end homelessness.
In my 10-plus years leading human service organizations, at the end of every season of winter shelters, I would say to our thousands of volunteers: “Our goal is to end this program next year. We want you volunteering in someone’s home, not your church basement.”
When I met with funders at the end of a grant cycle I would say: “I want this to be the last year your investment in services is not matched with permanent housing.”
At every staff meeting, I would end reminding my team: “Our job is to work ourselves out of a job.”
As I led a delegation of leaders through the halls of Congress on Advocacy Day at the National Alliance to End Homelessness conference, I would remind them: “We are not here to maintain the status quo. We don’t need more charity, we want real change.”
But I was always asked, "How do we get there?"
We get there by telling the story. As funders, we not only have the power to leverage our resources, but the ability to highlight the impact of our investments with nonprofit partners who see firsthand how a focus on ending homelessness opens up new doors for the people they serve.
We connect the personal stories to policies we know that work and the investments that need to happen from the private and public sector. We get there by constantly shaping the narrative that nonprofits and philanthropy can’t end homelessness alone.
We scale up. Increasing Funders Together to End Homelessness’ membership is important. Expanding funding networks in key states and regions will be critical. But those numbers will not matter if we don’t have the right people at the table expanding the reach of our work. And we don’t just want to be at the table, we want to create our own tables that focus on the intersecting issues that lead to homelessness with the leaders who have the power to effect change.
We are innovative and persistent. No amount of time in a classroom or sitting across from a policy-maker taught me about the real secret to advocacy like spending time with people in need, mostly living on the streets. Their innovation and persistence in some of the worst circumstances remind me we cannot give up when faced with roadblocks. The power of catalytic philanthropy is to push through walls and use our resources and talents creatively and collaboratively to end homelessness.
We have to do it together and not just appeal to the heart, but make the economic case. For the last two years working on the issues of economic security for women and families around the country, I saw success in policy happened when the heart and the head met. Ending homelessness, creating career pathways, and addressing housing security saves money, improves our economy as well as makes us a more just and caring community. That is our message as Funders Together to End Homelessness. This is our charge for the next year.