Social justice advocate and collaborative leader who has worked in the nonprofit sector in Los Angeles for more than 25 years. https://billpitkin.net
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Mandatory Relocation Notice — November 15, 2020

The key overall finding based upon available evidence is that adopting more humane, person-centered approaches produces more efficient and effective outcomes than the more punitive policies that are often used throughout the U.S. — Arnold Ventures

As the visibility of homelessness has grown throughout Los Angeles in recent years, it has revealed a long-standing dynamic in the region: the vast majority of people who are unhoused sleep outside or in places not meant for human habitation. While about a third of people who experience homelessness in the U.S. are unsheltered, nearly three-quarters of unhoused people in Los Angeles are unsheltered.

According to the most recent Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count the percentage of people who are unsheltered declined slightly from the year before, as there has been increased attention to creating interim and “bridge” housing through city and county programs. The count, however, was conducted in January this year, before the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has certainly worsened the situation. …


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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Originally published at Inside Philanthropy on July 18, 2020

As we’ve reported previously, left-leaning nonprofit organizations have become more politically involved through advocacy and lobbying, as well as civic engagement, sometimes by establishing 501(c)(4) affiliates. Foundations are increasingly coming together to back these efforts through funder collaboratives, while major donors are working together to coordinate both philanthropic and political funding. …


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Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

Originally published at Inside Philanthropy on June 24, 2020

Philanthropy has long exemplified a power imbalance of haves and have-nots, between those who have funding to give out and those seeking grants to do good in the world. To the have-nots, how funding decisions get made is often a mystery and the ultimate tool of philanthropic power.

Now such decisions are under scrutiny as never before. Criticism of institutional philanthropy has been growing in recent years, leading to increased self-reflection by foundations and some movement on how they relate to community organizations and residents.

Funders are stepping up efforts to gather feedback from the communities they work in, through their own practices, as well as collaborations such as the Fund for Shared Insight. A coalition of progressive funders is working together to advance what they call trust-based philanthropy, looking to strengthen relationships with grantees and provide more flexible support. …


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Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

Originally published at Inside Philanthropy on June 4, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis have generated calls for, and some action by, philanthropy to support grantees by relaxing funding and other requirements, and in some cases, increasing grant dollars during this time of need. Is the same true with foundations’ impact investing?

Impact investing is an umbrella term for “investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a financial return.” For philanthropy, these investments usually take the form of loans such as program-related investments (PRIs) or mission-related investments (MRIs) from foundation endowments.

Foundations in the United States provide over $80 billion a year in grants, but hold about $1 trillion in assets, funding that is invested and managed largely in the stock market and other investments. The impact investing movement calls for foundations to use their full financial capacity to advance their programmatic missions, and a number have made large commitments. The most prominent is the Ford Foundation, which committed $1 billion from its endowment toward MRIs. …


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Photo by Nicole Baster on Unsplash

The news from the Twin Cities and reactions across the country this week has brought back memories of April 1992, when I was living in Inglewood, just three miles from the flashpoint of the civil unrest in Los Angeles after the acquittal verdict in the Rodney King beating case. Over the next several days we heard constant sirens and smelled smoke in the air and watched as people looted stores across the street. My emotions were a mix of outrage and anger, fear and anxiety, and a strange hope to be part of building bridges across race and class lines.

I became familiar with the catch-phrases of the time (“Why can’t we all get along?” and “No justice, no peace”) and got involved in work and programs to build understanding among people from different backgrounds. …


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Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

Originally published at Inside Philanthropy on May 20, 2020

Philanthropy has become increasingly comfortable with funding community organizing and movement building to advance racial and economic equity, particularly in response to threats to democracy, civil rights and community life since the 2016 election. At the same time, funders have given growing attention to land use and affordable housing challenges in many communities. …


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Photo by Bruno Bergher on Unsplash

Stepping Up

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly disrupted how we live, work, interact and survive, like no other crisis in our lifetimes. Government — local, state and federal — has had to mobilize quickly to meet the health and basic needs of residents. Community organizations and residents are responding with heroism to the challenge, providing food, financial assistance, health care and housing to help slow the advance of the virus. …


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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

It’s become fashionable for people and institutions in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector to reflect — and in some cases — act on principles of equity, diversity and inclusion. These conversations lead to conversations about staffing and board makeup, as well as programmatic and grantmaking policies and goals. For example, Funders Together to End Homelessness, an organization I serve as a board member, recently released its Commitment to Racial Equity. Many funders and organizations have declared that they are working with an “equity lens” and reflecting on how it affects their processes and operations (e.g. …


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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Hateful, stigmatizing rhetoric fills our political discourse and social media feeds and rears its ugly head at political rallies and everyday interactions as it is normalized by national leaders. Immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ people and others who do not fit the nostalgic “Make America Great Again” vision are fearful and subject to hate speech, discrimination and violence.

Another group of people increasingly facing this hate and violence are those who do not have a home, our neighbors living on the streets, in canyons, vehicles and shelters. People vent openly on social media with language like this:

The homeless here are BUMS. Its a lifestyle choice. They are drug addicts and Thieves. They chose this life! They like it! …


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During one week in May I experienced two significant losses in my life. Mom had battled dementia for a few years, deteriorating cognitively and physically until it was her time leave this life. I had been grieving for a while, hurting from seeing mom suffer at times and missing her ability to put just the right words together whenever I needed to be comforted. Although not unexpected, her departure intensified my grief, which of course remains to this day.

That same week represented my last days at a job I had held for more than a decade. I had grown personally and professionally, made significant contributions to advancing our mission and developed strong relationships with colleagues. While excited about new adventures professionally, I realized that I was undergoing a parallel grieving process in missing what had been some of the most satisfying moments and connections of my career. Even as I took advantage of increased free time to engage on community and political issues, I was also grieving the state of our world, the violence, hate and tribalism that dominates the headlines. …

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