Regional funders team up to raise the impact of philanthropy directed to urgent need: Goal is to increase efficiency, expand access for residents affected by an ongoing economic crisis

December 13, 2009

David Trueblood The Boston Foundation 617-338-3890
Judy Shapiro Combined Jewish Philanthropies 617-457-8537
Mari Brennan Barrera Eos Foundation 508 989 8293
Blake Jordan The Highland Street Foundation 508-820-1151
Julia M. Toulmin The Linde Family Foundation/Mott Philanthropic 617-927-5700
Brigid Boyd United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley 617-624-8252

Goal is to increase efficiency, expand access for residents affected by an ongoing economic crisis

Boston –Leading philanthropic organizations in the Commonwealth have come together to strengthen the support network for people in distress and to commit more than $1.6 million in new funding to address urgent needs of people affected by the ongoing economic crisis in Massachusetts.

A strategy shaped by a series of meetings among the participants will provide emergency assistance to people through organizations addressing an immediate need for food, home heating, homeless prevention and housing. In addition, longer term investments will increase the utilization of existing programs and help to build the capacity of organizations addressing these needs in the future.

Meetings have also taken place with funders and direct service providers to ensure that philanthropic decisions are being made with the most recent understanding of the nature and scale of the problems.

Taking part in the collaborative effort are the Boston Foundation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Eos Foundation, the Highland Street Foundation, The Linde Family Foundation, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and a family that asked to remain anonymous.

“The goal is to use shared information to make the best use of the resources available to address urgent need in a systematic way,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “This collaboration makes it possible to coordinate giving at a time when organizations supporting people in distress are themselves stressed.”

The announcement comes at a time when need is continuing to rise, according to recent reporting. In one perennial indicator, requests for Thanksgiving turkeys have increased over the same time last year—which also registered a sharp uptick in need—by over 14 percent, according to the Greater Boston Food Bank. And the amount of food provided through pantries, shelters and programs affiliated with the Food Bank jumped by 25 percent between January and August of this year.

“The focus is on those who are struggling right now,” said JoAnn McGrath, Trustee of the Highland Street Foundation. “Many families are stressed to the limit, keeping food on the table, a roof over their heads and the heat turned on as winter approaches. We need to reach out to as many children, as many families as possible and to shore up the programs that can offer direct help to those in real need.”

Participants expressed concern that less attention is being paid to the human cost of the economic crisis than in past months, yet the numbers affected continues to rise.

“The effects of the recession on Massachusetts will be felt for years to come,” said Michael K. Durkin, President and CEO at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Now is the time for a comprehensive approach that ensures residents are able to meet their immediate needs and achieve a level of financial stability necessary to become thriving members for their communities.”

“This means we can strengthen our ability to put food on the table through the network of food pantries right away, and, at the same time, we can support increased use of the SNAP program by those entitled to that nutrition benefit, to reduce the number of residents who need to use food pantries,” said Andrea Silbert, President of Eos Foundation.

SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the successor to Food Stamps, both federal programs.

The current collaboration builds on efforts undertaken one year ago, when several of the funders involved in the current efforts released funding focused on those affected by an escalating crisis.

The Boston Foundation convened funders and service organizations on the front lines, to address an expected increase in hunger and a growing need for guaranteed access to heating fuel. As a downward economic slide and an accelerating housing crisis combined to threaten low-income area residents, the Foundation allocated $500,000 from the Permanent Fund for Boston, Greater Boston’s primary endowment fund. Donors associated with the Foundation responded by increasing that amount to over $750,000.

The Eos Foundation and the Highland Street Foundation teamed up to create a fund of more than $1 million, with support from the Fireman Foundation of Boston and an additional anonymous foundation. The scope of that fund was state-wide, and was announced at an event at the Greater Boston Food Bank.

In addition, individuals, corporations and foundations responded to the United Way’s Community Support Fund appeal last year, generating $2 million to help provide swift emergency assistance to families facing financial crisis.

Out of those convenings came the recent series of conversations addressing the need for greater coordination and the need to align the work of major funders to spread a limited resource as widely as possible.

The funders involved in today’s announcement share a concern for those most vulnerable, but in some cases they serve different communities and or have different service geographies. The goal of the partnership has been to reduce overlaps in some areas which may leave other areas or constituencies less well served.

“This innovative partnership will address the most pressing concerns facing Greater Boston,” said Barry Shrage, President of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “This is just the beginning of a collaborative process to leverage our combined resources and achieve the greatest impact.”

As the list of organizations receiving assistance (included below) indicates, the common conversation among the funders has made it possible to concentrate on issues of highest concern—emergency assistance, food, fuel and housing—while distributing the funding available to cover the widest range of people in need, in terms of geography as well as the type of need expressed.  Organizations serving Cape Cod, Greater Boston, as well as central and western Massachusetts, are included. Also, as the list underscores, grants are being made to support immediate emergency needs as well as long-term structural changes needed to better serve people in need.

Organizations that will receive support include:

Emergency assistance
Jewish Family and Children’s Service, emergency cash assistance and preventions services
Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Boston, emergency cash assistance
Jewish Vocational Services, career and vocational services
Lynn Economic Opportunity, Inc.
Traveler’s Aid Prevention and Stabilization Program, for families at risk of homelessness
Yad Chessed, emergency cash assistance

Boston Medical Center Food Pantry, addressing hunger-related illness and malnutrition among low-income patient
Family Pantry of Cape Cod
Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, emergency food network and Food for Elders program
Greater Boston Food Bank, helping to end hunger in Eastern Massachusetts
Jewish Family & Children’s Service
Jewish Family Services of MetroWest
Project Bread, for SNAP application case management and case management training, and the food source hotline
Women’s Lunch Place, for emergency food assistance, individual case management and health and support services
Worcester County Food Bank, serving area towns

Citizen’s Energy, emergency oil assistance
National Consumer Law Center, utility discounts, training frontline staff, advocacy
City of Boston, for the HeatWorks Plus home weatherization program

Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, providing access to high quality healthcare
Bridge Over Troubled Water, bringing hope healing and homes to Boston’s homeless youth
Friends of Boston’s Homeless, helping the homeless transition to independent living
Greater Boston Legal Services’ Tenancy Preservation Effort, eviction prevention services
Heading Home, a housing and support services program
HEARTH, homelessness prevention among the elderly
Horizons for Homeless Children, A statewide organization
Lawrence Community Works, fostering greater economic stability for residents
Mass Housing & Shelter Alliance, Home & Healthy for Good, a state-wide initiative to cut healthcare costs for the chronically homeless
Metropolitan Housing Partnership, helping those at risk of becoming homeless or who are homeless
Pine Street Inn, emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing
Project Hope’s Housing Services Department, addressing a range of issues in Roxbury and Dorchester
Rosie’s Place, temporary housing and permanent housing
YWCA of Southeastern Massachusetts, housing for women