Working together for the common good

By Barbara Goodmon

I recently participated in one of the most exciting meetings I have ever attended.

In attendance were the N.C Justice Center, N.C. Housing Coalition, United Way of North Carolina, NAACP, AARP, N.C. Bankers Association, N.C. Association of Homebuilders and N.C. Association of Realtors.

We were meeting with some of Gov. Mike Easley’s staff concerning an increase in dollars in the North Carolina Housing Trust Fund.

Why was this an exceptional meeting, in my opinion?

I doubt that this combination of organization representatives had ever been in the same room together, perhaps had never met before.

Because North Carolina does not have an independent state government department that focuses on housing, housing needs get lost or handled in bits and pieces in other state government departments and within the nonprofit arena.

Many of the organizations represented are large membership groups that address numerous agendas.

For everyone to come together to specifically endorse the past work of the Housing Trust Fund, through the efforts of Bob Kucab, its director, and to request a sizable increase in the Housing Trust Fund in Gov. Easley’s recommended budget to the legislature was indeed a memorable occasion.

It is more common for organizations to compete for the same dollars, often explaining why their requests are a better use of the taxpayers’ dollars.

For two years, N.C. Justice Center, N.C. Housing Coalition, United Way of North Carolina and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation have worked across this state to bring every possible organization from every sector to the table to make a commitment to increase the Housing Trust Fund from $3 million a year to $50 million a year.

Additionally, we have worked with the legislature to educate lawmakers about the housing needs and economic investment that these dollars could make.

Last session, with the help of many new partners, the legislature allocated the Trust Fund a one-time gift of an additional $5 million.

One-third of our state’s population, or 750,000 households, need affordable housing, and the Trust Fund can help begin to address that critical need.

Why was this meeting exciting enough to me that I am writing about it?  It is because a whole lot of groups have come together with a commitment to work together on addressing the state’s need for more affordable housing.

This united effort is the reason we were granted a meeting with the Gov. Easley’s staff to make our request.

We always talk about how if groups would join together in one common effort, we would have more success in getting requests granted.

I think that the Trust Fund’s one-time gift from the legislature and our recent meeting are perfect examples of how we change policy in North Carolina for the common good.

One last thought: If you are feeling left out of this exciting effort, we have plenty of room for everyone. Just contact us. It is only a phone call away.

Barbara Goodmon is president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which publishes Philanthropy Journal.

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