Union Station Homeless Services is one of the largest homeless services providers in Los Angeles County. They came to Elevate in 2018 at the recommendation of their new CEO, who had previously worked with Elevate at another organization. At the time, Union Station had recently experienced their most rapid period of expansion in their 40+ year history after receiving an influx of government funds to tackle the homelessness crisis in the region. While this publicly-funded growth enabled Union Station to quickly expand their services and geographic reach, it did not provide the flexible funds to build the internal capacity required to successfully sustain this growth and achieve maximum impact. Union Station hired Elevate to increase their portfolio of private foundation funders, particularly those who would provide General Operating Support, to build their capacity for sustainable growth.
Additionally, with an influx of public funds, much of Union Station’s new programming had become siloed within government-defined program areas. In order to translate this work for new foundation audiences, they needed to develop new grant language and holistic evaluation methods that would more concisely communicate their impact. While Union Station benefited from the support of many long-time family foundation funders, there were a number of larger foundations that they had not found success in establishing a funding relationship with yet that they knew could offer transformative support and lend key credibility to their work.
The Elevate team began working collaboratively with Union Station’s Development team to tackle a two-fold strategy of (1) translating Union Station’s work for a foundation audience and (2) leading a major prospect research and strategic cultivation push to solidify relationships with new funding partners.
First, the Elevate team interviewed Program and Executive staff to build an understanding of Union Station’s work and impact. We used this information to draft compelling new general operating language written for a foundation audience who may not be as well versed in the nuances of housing services as government audiences. As part of this process, we worked with the Data & Evaluation team to map the outcomes of each program area to develop a clear and concise impact statement that would resonate with foundations. These conversations helped Union Station develop an organization-wide culture of philanthropy where staff across the agency understand how their work directly contributes to fundraising.
Simultaneously, we identified and qualified well-aligned prospects to meet the organization’s growing funding needs in homeless services, health, and employment access. With Elevate’s research and support in developing targeted outreach strategies, Union Station’s Chief Development and Communications Officer enthusiastically worked to cultivate new foundation relationships, securing invitations to apply to a number of new high-priority foundations. Many of these proposals focused on general operating support as well as targeted project grants that could enhance capacity, such as funding for staff training, capital expenditures, and new community programs.
In the first four years of our partnership, Union Station’s organizational budget has more than doubled. Elevate has provided Union Station with the expertise and capacity to continue to match its growing public investment with new and increased private foundation grants that are critical to sustainable growth. Together, we have achieved a 63% win rate for new funding, an extraordinary rate for first time grant opportunities. And Union Station has secured $4.40 in grants for every dollar invested in Elevate. New funding has included transformational six- and seven-figure grants from regional and national funders.
Union Station Homeless Services has been serving their community for almost 50 years. As the lead agency coordinating homeless services in the San Gabriel Valley, they serve a region with a combined population of over 1.5 million across more than 36 cities and communities. Their mission is to help individuals and families end homelessness and rebuild their lives.
Elevate is a great thought partner. I consider them critical members of my development team. Working with Elevate has expanded our grants portfolio and increased our foundation revenue.