Over the last year and a half, The Stop has worked hard to transition our fundraising from donor-centric practices to a community-centric model. As part of our commitment to Community-Centric Fundraising (CCF), we’ve had conversations with individual donors, partners and institutional supporters about the problematic aspects of philanthropy and how we can implement a more community-centric approach. 

In 2021, The Stop secured a $50,000 donation that was shared (50/50) with the grassroots organization Neighbourhood Land Trust (NLT). This program is aligned with The Stop’s commitment to CCF principles and our efforts to share resources with other like-minded organizations that make important contributions to poverty alleviation in Toronto.  

Read our interview with James Partanen, Community Development Coordinator at NLT:

Why is the community ownership model an effective approach to maintaining the perpetual affordability of housing in Toronto?

Community ownership ensures that housing stays directly in the hands of the local community, safe from the changing priorities of civic governments as administrations change over time.  Our governance model includes both broad community input as well as fully empowered tenant voices. 

A “community-ownership” model is an unfamiliar concept for a lot of people. How do you focus your efforts on educating your stakeholders and securing support for this approach? How do respond to resistance from individuals, particularly those who hold power in real estate, housing, etc.? 

For our own stakeholders, we favour a “learn by doing” approach. Anyone can participante in our open All-Committee meetings. Participants can immediately begin doing real work with peers who quickly bring each other up to speed.  

For those who resist our goals of community ownership, we speak truth to power. Backed by our research, we point out exactly where private for-profit ownership has gotten us in terms of dramatically reduced housing affordability.

How does NLT support tenants in communities dealing with increased rates of evictions, renovictions and gentrification?

The NLT supports people in high-eviction and gentrifying neighbourhoods in three main ways:

  1. Securing properties in those neighbourhoods which we can thereafter maintain as ungentrified low-income housing.
  2. Ensuring that the housing we own is operated in a manner that is consistent with our community-based values, including policies that specifically support tenants in maintaining their tenancies even when experiencing economic challenges.
  3. Doing community based research on eviction, renoviction, and gentrification and advocating for policy change to mitigate these deeply unhealthy processes.  

Some of your funding comes from tenants’ rental payments, which helps cover essential maintenance and building improvements. How do you sustain this income stream while also ensuring that your tenants have a stable housing situation?

We have a four-pronged approach to balancing the needs of income-marginalized people to maintain their housing, with our need to maintain the financial viability of our properties for the community:

  1. We seek to find housing subsidies for all of our properties.  
  2. We have a community working group specifically focused on developing an eviction policy that is as tenant-supportive as possible.
  3. We have created a successful Rent Relief program that can accept charitable donations to support tenants experiencing temporary challenges paying their rent.  
  4. We partner with other social service agencies to help tenants find other housing supports, and to receive as much support as possible if they are not able to continue their tenancy in a way that does not threaten the financial viability of the property.

The partnership between the NLT and The Stop was inspired by The Stop’s commitment to community-centric fundraising. Particularly the movement’s third principle: “Nonprofits are generous and mutually supportive of one another”. Outside of sharing monetary resources, how do you think charities can better collaborate to improve their impact in their communities?

Parkdale NLT, NLT’s community governance body, has a multistakeholder Board of Directors, including identified seats for community members, tenants, and organizational partners.  We find that sharing board members with our community partners is a great way to magnify the impact of our community of service organizations. As board members are able to “cross-pollinate” ideas and see where resources and strengths can easily be shared.

What would an ideal future of philanthropy look like to you? 

An ideal future would have employers, even charitable and social service employers, providing staff with a half-day a week of paid time to volunteer at other charitable and social service organizations. Think of what we could all accomplish together!

Lear more about how The Stop is moving from away from donor-centric fundraising to prioritize community.