In the U.S., there are thousands of nonprofit organizations that are trying to do something about homelessness. In some cases, organizations are providing a place for people to sleep at night. In other cases, organizations are working to actually end, or eradicate, homelessness. There are organizations that are seeking to implement public policies that provide homeless individuals with rights that many of us take for granted, and there is a plethora of organizations providing ancillary support through the provision of transportation, clothing, soft skills training, etc. In any one community, there are a multitude of organizations that are involved in these efforts.
Prince George’s County, Maryland is home to over 880,000 individuals, of whom almost 700 are homeless. There are over 670 nonprofit organizations that provide human services from over 3,550 organizations across the entire county. While I couldn’t find any data indicating just how many of those organizations are directly tied to homelessness, I was able to determine that those 3,550 organizations equate to roughly $1.2 billion in revenue. Some back-of-the-napkin-math and extrapolation means that the 670 human service organizations equate to $221 MILLION in revenue.
Last year, Microsoft netted $22.1 BILLION. ExxonMobil netted $32.6 BILLION. Apple netted $37 BILLION. What would happen if one of those companies picked just one community and focused on ending homelessness in that community by investing 1% (or, to lowball it, roughly $221M) into that community? Since that clearly isn’t ending homelessness in Prince George’s County, perhaps the company could give 5% (or, $1.1B). The company would take on all the activities mentioned above – providing shelter, moving people to transitional housing, increasing access to ancillary support services – and develop processes and systems to eradicate homelessness from that community. The company would still continue to sell its product or services (and thus make money), but it would have a department solely responsible for focusing on that one community and ending that one problem. Would that company be successful in eliminating homelessness? Could they use their resources and processes to solve a problem that 670 organizations staffed with smart people can’t overcome? If your answer is yes, then what would the nonprofit sector learn from it?