What is Giving in L.A.?

Giving in LA Giving in L.A. is a go-to source, an aggregator for strategies and points of view about trends and issues in giving, challenges for philanthropists and philanthropic organizations, tools and techniques for individuals or families, insights and opinions from experts, and more – all centered on Los Angeles County.

September 2, 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Permanent Supportive Housing Can Be the Ticket to Ending Homelessness

By Corrin Buchanan and Chris Hubbard

The number of individuals experiencing homelessness across Los Angeles County jumped 12 percent in the last two years, and our neighbors become homeless for a variety of reasons every day. This makes clear the need for increased investment in the interventions proven to end homelessness. The issue isn’t one sector’s problem to solve. We need political will from our elected officials, strong collaboration between government agencies and community-based partners, leadership from the private sector and support from all Angelenos—because homelessness affects us all.

More than half of L.A.’s homeless individuals are dealing with mental illness, chronic medical problems or substance use; many struggle with more than one of these. To effectively help these individuals requires creating more permanent supportive housing: combining subsidized housing with an organized and coordinated set of on-site services including case management, health care and mental health care.

In addition to best serving the needs of the chronically homeless, permanent supportive housing leads to significant cost savings. The per-person costs of homeless individuals utilizing Los Angeles County services are 3.7 times higher than it would cost to provide that same individual with permanent supportive housing (see chart below).

Los Angeles is one of the most expensive housing markets in America, with a severe lack of affordable and permanent supportive housing. To address this need, public agencies are stepping up in new ways to help provide housing options for people experiencing homelessness. The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) created the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool in January 2014 to secure permanent supportive housing for DHS patients who are homeless. The pool was launched through a cross-sector partnership, including a $14 million commitment from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and $4 million from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

By providing housing for frequent users of the health system, DHS has found it can reduce emergency room visits and inpatient admissions and can save an average of $32,000 per person housed each year. By the end of 2015, DHS will have housed 600 individuals. Using the local pool, as well as traditional federal housing resources, DHS aims to provide housing to 10,000 individuals over the next five years.

The nonprofit, government and private sectors all have roles to play in solving chronic homelessness in Los Angeles County. The United Way of Greater Los Angeles and Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce have teamed up with government and foundations on Home for Good, the campaign to end homelessness in Los Angeles County. Government departments are coordinating efforts city- and county-wide, local foundations are committing millions of dollars to the development of affordable and permanent supportive housing and nonprofits are coordinating efforts in their own regions to better address the needs of the individuals they serve. Although the work is far from over, these are important steps in transforming the lives of L.A. County’s most vulnerable residents.

Watch how nonprofit organization Skid Row Housing Trust provides services and permanent supportive housing to change lives:

Corrin Buchanan is program manager for Housing for Health at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

Chris Hubbard is program officer for Housing & Economic Opportunity at the California Community Foundation.

August 18, 2015 ~ 0 Comments

50 Years Later, the Embers of the Watts Riots Still Glow

Watts Towers: Photo Copyright Mark Nye - flic.kr/p/a4MUYV

Photo Copyright Mark Nye – flic.kr/p/a4MUYV

By LaWayne Williams

On August 11, 1965 in Watts, an ember erupted into flames. The routine traffic stop of 21 year old Marquette Frye sparked a series of events that would forever change Los Angeles. 34 people died during the Watts Riots and the community absorbed $40 million in damages. The ember sparked by Frye’s arrest was the result of deep-seated anger, spurred by the culmination of racism, residential segregation, poverty and police brutality.

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Watts Riots, there is an eeriness in the striking similarity that the Watts riots have to contemporary uprisings across the country. Despite the separation of five decades and landmark federal legislation that sought to tear down the walls of racism and segregation, the optics and narratives look and sound the same. The conditions within many communities – joblessness, blight, high incarceration rates, inequitable wages –appear to be the same as well. All this leaves me desperately searching for a way to explain such events to my 11 year-old daughter and 7 year-old son.

She asked me “Why?” If I’m honest, I would admit that I have been at a loss for words over the past year. We’ve been bombarded with footage of police officers inflicting violence on unarmed men, women and children, oftentimes resulting in gun violence and death.

I remember how I felt as a child watching television during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles. I turned to my grandmother and asked her “Why?” She simply shook her head and said “they are just fed up.” They felt they had little to lose.

News accounts and the public discourse described the events that unfolded in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting death of Michael Brown and even the murder of Eric Garner in Staten Island as isolated incidents. However, in interviews and conversations with people living in those communities, you will hear over and over again that people had gotten weary of strained relationships with law enforcement and conditions that seemed to persist. The frustration, distrust, disparagement and discrimination felt by communities across the country begs the question of how much have things changed since 1965.

Since 2014, I have been honored to help manage BLOOM, which seeks to create positive and productive futures for young Black men in South L.A. who have become enmeshed in the justice system. California Community Foundation’s BLOOM—(Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men) is one among several philanthropic initiatives aiming to building resilience and propel systems change within what is emerging as an era of scrutiny and reform within criminal justice and law enforcement. Still, education achievement gaps, economic inequities and inadequate access to healthcare continue to plague the most vulnerable communities across the country, continue to act as kindling. Almost all the uprisings we have seen over the course of the last 50 years trace back to a single incident, a spark that became a roaring inferno.

The complexities that lead to uprisings such as Watts, South Central L.A., Ferguson and Baltimore force us to consider the notion that inequity and depressed conditions in communities are functions of institutional prejudice rather than individual level involvement and effort.

As a country, we cannot continue to ignore the societal disparities that light these fires or be surprised when communities erupt. I hope that my children’s enduring question of “Why?” persists until we as a nation begin to understand the complexities underlying the Watts rebellion and the steps we must all take to put out the fires of generational poverty, unjust incarceration practices, non-compliant law enforcement and policies that reinforce a status quo.

LaWayne Williams is the program manager for the California Community Foundation’s BLOOM (Building a Lifetime of Options and Opportunities for Men).

July 22, 2015 ~ 0 Comments

The New Normal: Mega Donors and Fewer Recipients

John-Kobara-web-squareThe recently released annual report on American philanthropy, Giving USA, cites a 5.4 percent surge in charitable giving last year to $358.4 billion, reaching above pre-recession levels.

This is good news and a reflection of the economy. Donations to religious organizations, though in decline, continue to be the top category of giving and each recipient sector experienced growth, except international affairs. We have also witnessed the surge at the California Community Foundation.

While the data is heartening, it’s increasingly clear that a rising tide does NOT lift all boats. Giving from the top does not always trickle down. We’re seeing huge amounts of generosity, but how do we ensure that more people who can give are giving, and that it’s having an impact where the need is greatest?

Giving USA is a reflection of the growing gap between wealth and understanding. It’s an indication of a structural change taking place in philanthropy that leaves out those most in need.

Fewer Donors, Fewer Recipients

Part of the news is this record giving level was accomplished with fewer donors. The top 50 donors in America gave $10.2 billion in 2014, which means that just 50 donors have accounted for more than 40 percent of the surge over the previous year.

And the challenge we’re seeing is that the nonprofit/charitable sector sits in the context of the major giving wars of the so-called “eds and meds” — higher education institutions and medical centers. In Los Angeles, USC and UCLA have more than 750 fundraising staff members! How does a homeless shelter, domestic violence prevention center or at-risk youth mentoring organization compete with that?

Ninety percent of nonprofits do not have a major gifts officer or even a major gifts strategy, much less a mega gifts officer. Almost three quarters of nonprofits in the United States have budgets under $1 million. In Los Angeles County, 80 percent of nonprofits have budgets under $250,000.

Back to the top 50 donors, that’s $204 million apiece! Don’t get me wrong. I applaud these gifts. But to put that in perspective, just one of those would fund the annual expenses of half the nonprofits in Los Angeles County.

So it’s bigger gifts from fewer people that benefit the “1 percent” of nonprofits.

When we meet with nonprofit leaders and review their financials, they have not seen “surge” or even his second cousin. Fundraising for the organizations serving the poor remains locked in the recession. “Surge” can only be used to describe the demand for services, not the flow of giving.

Again, a surge is a great headline, but how do we inspire more people to give? Individual giving has been stuck at about 2 percent of GDP and about 2 percent of adjusted gross income for decades. America has hit the generosity ceiling. Giving in the United States has not tracked with any other rational measure of the economy.

What about the S&P 500, which has grown 146 percent since 2009, or the cost of tuition or healthcare?

This is especially stark with corporate giving, which, according to Giving USA, grew 11.9 percent year over year but represents only 0.7 percent of pretax profits. The average for the last 30 years has been 0.9 percent of pretax profits. Pretax profits hit a record in 2014 at $2.42 trillion. So a 0.2 percent increase to get to level average would mean an increase of $48 billion — now that would be a surge!

We’re also seeing people from lower economic strata routinely give a higher percentage of income than their higher-income counterparts. In Los Angeles County, the lower-income neighborhoods of Watts and Inglewood “outperform” Malibu and Pacific Palisades in giving percentages, according to a UCLA study.

So who is not giving is as interesting as who is.

Mapping the Need

A major problem is the growing gap of understanding about the persistent needs that have not been addressed by the private or public sectors. The nonprofit sector is an under-appreciated and under-funded safety net that the surge has neglected from my perspective as a funder of nonprofits serving the most vulnerable.

There needs to be a breakdown of giving to spur more of it. By looking into the numbers and disaggregating the data, we can see where giving is coming from and where it isn’t. More important, where the funds are going and where they aren’t. Broad categories like “education” or “human services” have to be analyzed.

Back in Los Angeles County, we have become a net exporter of philanthropy after taking into account giving to L.A.’ s institutions from outside the county. This has led a number of nonprofit leaders to dive deeper into this data to start an information campaign to promote the needs in Los Angeles. I believe we can increase giving to basic human services here if we make the case.

We also need to ensure that headlines touting an increase in giving don’t lull many people into feeling that things are back to normal. They aren’t. Mega giving is here to stay. The trend of fewer donors making monster gifts is ominous. We can’t sit back and wait for a true surge. We must start our own campaign to educate and inspire the philanthropic community and non-givers about the unmet needs and the remarkable organizations that will never have mega gift officers.

John E. Kobara is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the California Community Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter @jekobara.