The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland has spent years focused on homelessness, but within that it has narrowed its focus and goals in an effort to have greater impact. For instance, rather than just investing in housing in general, the foundation is working to end chronic homelessness — a measurable, specific goal that toward which it’s been able to demonstrate progress.
“There’s a continuum of being strategic,” said Susanna Krey, Sisters of Charity Foundation president, “and I think our experience over time — we’ve just become sharper and even more targeted in how we try to be strategic in our very specific goal areas that we fund.”
Several years ago, when considering applying for some federal funds that required a very small place-based footprint, the Sisters of Charity convened the community to determine that geographic area, which became the western part of the Central neighborhood. Though the foundation ultimately didn’t receive these federal funds, it kept a focus on that area, which allowed it to drive some deeper change.
While the United Way of Greater Cleveland has historically taken great pride in giving dollars to more than 100-200 agencies, said president and CEO Augie Napoli, it is now shifting more toward where it’s going to have the greatest impact. In doing so, it was no longer realistic for the grantmaker to focus on all 13 topic areas it’s historically funded. Today, it focuses on eight.
The organization had to take a “real honest look at ourselves,” and examine what has been achieved in the years of funding many, many programs across the health and human services world, said Nancy Mendez, vice president of community impact for the United Way.
“One out of two of every child living in Cleveland is living in poverty,” she said. “So what I do know is what we did in the past didn’t work. And so we must be bold, we must be innovative and try something new.”
Today, the organization is focused on collective impact, or aligning various entities’ agendas and resources.