Meet Our Staff


Joanna Balsamo-Lilien

Senior Grant Writer
Hometown: Atascadero, CA

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Joanna has a career history working in the public (state government) and nonprofit sectors. Much of her work has focused on her passion for creating opportunities for affordable housing and addressing homelessness. She has held positions in nonprofit social service agencies administering housing programs and writing grants to support the agencies’ work. She has also worked as a consultant assisting local units of governments and nonprofits in designing and implementing affordable housing programs using public and private funding sources and helping organizations develop internally to ensure strong program delivery. Joanna worked for the Wisconsin State Division of Housing for a period of time before moving across the county to California. Prior to joining Elevate, Joanna had been working for a community-based organization, writing grants to support the agency’s overall work and providing programmatic support to the agency’s transitional housing programs for homeless families and youth aging out of the foster care system. 


Joanna continues to be passionate about her belief in the importance of affordable housing. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Smart Share Housing Solutions, a local organization devoted to finding affordable housing solutions. She completed a master’s program in Public Administration at the University of Wisconsin’s La Follette School of Public Affairs and graduated from the University of Michigan with bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Women’s Studies. Before beginning graduate school, Joanna spent a year as a VISTA working for a nonprofit affordable housing developer. This experience was the beginning of the marriage of her interests in grant writing and affordable housing. 


Joanna has lived all across the US but is happy now to call California home, where she enjoys the proximity to the ocean and the mountains.

What is your hidden talent?

Yikes! Tough question.

What punctuation mark would you be and why?

Maybe an ellipsis? Give me a moment and there may be more to come.

What is your grammatical pet peeve?

"Irregardless." uhhg.

What is your favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

Spending time outside walking, either solo or with my dog, and maybe throw in a good book for the down time.

Meet More of Our Staff