The Melville Charitable Trust, Inc. (Melville Trust), a highly respected organization with a reputation for “punching above its weight,” is the largest foundation in the United States exclusively devoted to preventing and ending homelessness. Since its founding in 1990, the Trust has upheld the conviction that homelessness is a solvable social issue and that safe, accessible, and affordable housing is an indispensable part of the solution. For nearly 30 years, Melville Trust has invested more than $150 million in grants, national collaboratives, and other program-related initiatives to advance proven, lasting, and cost-effective solutions that empower people with the least resources and biggest barriers to success. And where solutions have not yet been identified, the Trust has supported exploration and innovation to find the most promising approaches.
Melville Trust has an endowment of $146 million and operates a two-pronged strategy: it supports concrete efforts to end homelessness in its home state of Connecticut and works to improve the policy environment at the national level. Melville Trust is committed to justice, innovation, systems-change work, and collaboration and invests in long-term solutions. Not merely a catalytic grantmaker, the Trust is also a convener, advocate, social entrepreneur, and program manager of its own mission-related investments in Hartford. Melville Trust has been effective in changing public thinking around homelessness, driving philanthropy and government policy away from emergency palliative responses toward proven, durable, and cost-effective alternatives.
Some of Melville Trust’s noted program initiatives include: A Way Home America, a cross-sector national movement to end youth homelessness; Funders for Housing and Opportunity, a collaborative focused on improving life outcomes for those who pay more than half of their monthly income on rent or do not have a home at all; Secure Jobs CT, a multi-site pilot designed to better connect the workforce and homeless service systems; and Reaching Home, Connecticut’s campaign to end homelessness.
In recent years, Melville Trust has strategically shifted its focus “upstream,” placing increased emphasis on responding to homelessness by engaging directly with the systems that feed it, including housing, mental health, criminal justice, child welfare, and employment. Although more progress is needed to determine how best to dismantle entrenched systemic inequality, the Trust is clear that multiple systems must be engaged as part of the solution.
In keeping with this holistic approach, Melville Trust has committed to closely examining the racial injustices embedded in issues of housing access. Moving forward, it is invested as a foundation in adopting a racial equity framework through which to approach its grantmaking, collaboratives and partnerships, and internal operations.
After several years of productive strategic and organizational evolution, Melville Trust seeks a new Executive Director to expand upon its endeavors. This next leader will bring a demonstrated commitment to the mission of Melville Trust, along with a record of strategic and impactful leadership within mission-driven organizations. The successful candidate will have experience advocating for and achieving measurable outcomes related to systemic change and will have executed scalable and sustainable solutions for which there is clear evidence of effectiveness. This leader must also bring a demonstrated commitment to dismantling structural racism and other forms of entrenched inequality. The next Executive Director will be an accomplished convener, collaborative partner, and an effective communicator, with strong financial and management acumen, and background as a grantmaker or grantee. Experience reporting to a governing body, supervising a high-functioning senior staff, and varied experience across sectors and disciplines is strongly preferred.
Melville Trust has retained Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm, to assist in this search. All inquiries, nominations, and applications should be directed in strict confidence to the firm as indicated at the end of this document.
Melville Trust was established in 1990 by the estate of Dorothy Bigelow Melville. Although Mrs. Melville placed no specific strictures on how the funds of the Trust should be devoted, its founding Board – under the leadership of Mrs. Melville’s son Frank Melville – identified the abolition of homelessness as its singular goal. Since then, Melville Trust’s “north star” has remained constant, with the organization upholding the conviction that homelessness is a solvable social issue and that safe, accessible, and affordable housing is an indispensable part of the solution.
Under its founding Executive Director, Melville Trust focused on supporting the growth in Connecticut of affordable housing and housing with services, or supportive housing, as a smart, humane, and cost-effective means for preventing and ending homelessness among people most vulnerable to housing loss. In 1998, the Trust funded the creation of the Partnership for Strong Communities (The Partnership) to serve as a central coordinating point for statewide campaigns advocating for greater public sector investments in housing solutions. Since its founding, The Partnership has successfully advocated for more than $700 million in public funding in Connecticut for efforts to build homes and end homelessness. Today, Melville Trust retains a seat on The Partnership’s Board of Directors.
Building on this Connecticut experience, Melville Trust launched efforts to strengthen and extend the reach of national advocacy, educational efforts, and capacity-building to grantee organizations. In 2004, the Trust joined with several other funders across the country to formFunders Together to End Homelessness, a national network of foundations and corporations supporting strategic and effective grantmaking to end homelessness. Today, Funders Together is an independent nonprofit organization with over 175 members. Melville Trust remains a dedicated funder and an engaged member of the network.
In 2003, Melville Trust experimented with a hands-on approach to address the causes and symptoms of poverty in Connecticut by investing in Hartford’s Frog Hollow neighborhood, a community within several blocks of the State Capitol that had long suffered from disinvestment and lack of opportunity. Melville Trust’s mission-related investments in real estate and program development in Frog Hollow targeted both immediate needs and longer-term strategies, recognizing that neighborhood development is an incremental process that takes time. The investments included:
- The purchase and renovation of the historic Lyceum building into a conference and gathering space for other organizations and groups working to end homelessness and promote affordable housing. (In 2018, an additional partial renovation of the Lyceum was completed for the purposes of upkeep);
- The acquisition and rehabilitation of multiple buildings within a two-block area for 120 units of housing – including 98 units within a former factory from the 1880s known as Billings Forge;
- The creation of a nonprofit, Billings Forge Community Works, where Melville Trust retains a seat on the Board of Directors, to serve as a driving force for community participation, promoting access to healthy food, engaging children and youth, and developing employment opportunities and economically sustainable social enterprises, including the Kitchen Café, located at both Billings Forge and the Hartford Public Library;
- The launching in 2007 of Firebox Restaurant, located on the Billings Forge property, to provide local residents with jobs and to stimulate local economic development.
Since 2013, Billings Forge has been owned by a separate limited partnership and has been managed by Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), a national nonprofit that preserves existing affordable housing at risk of being lost due to market pressures or physical deterioration. The transition to this ownership model ensured the long-term sustainability and affordability of Billings Forge and freed up significant resources the Trust could reallocate towards critical grantmaking and collaboratives.
In 2012, the Melville Trust appointed Janice Elliott as its second Executive Director. As a former housing consultant and managing director at the Corporation for Supportive Housing, Janice brought to the Trust many years of experience in the creation of supportive and affordable housing and significant expertise in advocacy for policy reforms to end homelessness. Janice has led Melville Trust through a period of consolidation and growth, strengthening the Trust’s internal structure, honing its strategic focus, recruiting a dynamic staff team, expanding the Trust’s presence through partnerships and strategic communications, and launching major initiatives nationally and within Connecticut in the areas of youth homelessness, housing affordability, and workforce development. Under Janice’s leadership, the Trust’s board has grown in size, has become more diverse, and plays an active role in shaping the organization’s grantmaking strategy.
For many years, Melville Trust had made substantial inroads, both nationally and in Connecticut, to elevate supportive housing as key to ending homelessness. However, in 2013, after conducting a comprehensive grantmaking review in which the organization solicited feedback from its grantees, the Trust recalibrated its philanthropic approach in an effort to increase its impact. The result was a shift in focus “upstream.” In other words, rather than narrowly focusing on supportive and affordable housing, the Trust committed to working with organizations and grantees across multiple systems, including housing, healthcare, employment, child welfare, and beyond, in order to address the root causes that fuel homelessness. Today, the Board and staff work in tandem to continually test “upstream” initiatives, with a keen eye towards ensuring continued mission alignment.
In recent years, the Trust’s staff and Board have become increasingly aware that ending homelessness also requires dismantling the barriers that inhibit historically marginalized communities from accessing good housing, healthcare, employment, and education. Given the long legacy of people of color disproportionally facing homelessness, Melville Trust has recently embarked on the creation of a racial equity framework, intended to serve as a lens to advance racial justice efforts within the Trust and across the homelessness movement. The intent is that this framework will become an organizing and tracking tool for Melville Trust’s grantmaking, communications, internal operations, and its investment portfolio. Recently, the Trust has begun to provide more direct grants for equity work to individual organizations, and earlier this year it surveyed its national and Connecticut grantees to learn how they would like to grow their own capacity to address racial equity. Melville Trust has also engaged outside consultants in order to build an internal environment that fosters honest and sustained Board and staff engagement around conversations of racial equity.
Grantmaking and Partnerships
In 2018, Melville Trust made grants of $7.2 million to 63 organizations. 39% of grants were directed towards policy and advocacy, 31% to capacity-building, 14% to programs, 9% to leadership, 5% to journalism, and 2% to research.
In 2018, 64% of Melville Trust’s grants were directed to organizations at the national level and 36% to Connecticut-based organizations. Historically, the ratio of national grantmaking to Connecticut grantmaking has been intentionally undefined, evolving organically year by year based on local needs and the national landscape. Regardless, Melville Trust is committed to place-based work and intends to preserve its efforts in Connecticut as an important test ground for the Trust to engage systems, increase awareness of practical obstacles that inform its work, and to ultimately affect policy change at both the state and federal levels.
As part of its grantmaking strategy, the Trust has been deeply intentional in engaging and partnering with other nonprofit organizations and foundations on specific initiatives in order to increase the voice, impact, footprint, and philanthropic dollars supporting important systems change efforts:
- In housing, Melville Trust brought together a national funder collaborative focused on tackling the housing affordability crisis. Funders for Housing and Opportunity(in its third year) includes the Trust and 10 of the nation’s largest foundations that together focus on improving life outcomes for the 12 million Americans who pay more than half of their monthly income on rent or do not have a home at all. Through a pooled fund, the collaborative members combine resources to support advocacy, narrative change work, and efforts to scale effective practices at the intersection of housing, health, and education.
- In youth homelessness, Melville Trust joined with other funders to catalyze the start-up of A Way Home America, a cross-sector national movement to end youth homelessness that in particular targets youth of color and LGBTQ youth, who overwhelmingly and disproportionately experience homelessness. The Trust also joined with others to launch a youth homelessness demonstration project in Connecticut.
- In employment, Melville Trust partnered with the Oak Foundation to support the creation of the National Center on Employment and Homelessness, based at Heartland Alliance. The Trust also sparked a partnership of over 25 Connecticut foundations to launch the Secure Jobs CT pilot, which is exploring ways to better connect the workforce and homeless service systems and to improve the employment outcomes of formerly homeless families.
Melville Trust has committed to providing major, sustained operating support for a core set of organizations engaged in critical advocacy, research, and capacity-building to end homelessness. In Connecticut, these include the Partnership for Strong Communities, the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, andthe Corporation for Supportive Housing. At the national level, they include such organizations as the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Technical Assistance Collaborative.
By taking this long-term, sustained approach, Melville Trust has been able to push the narrative beyond shelter, crisis response, and temporary solutions, and towards the idea that only a systemic approach will end homelessness. Moving forward, the Trust intends to continue to support innovations at the local, state, and federal level that go beyond grantmaking. The foundation is also committed to working with grantees around strategy development and to introduce new funders and partners to this work. Uniting with an expanding network of like-minded grantees and grantmakers, Melville Trust looks to a future where philanthropy’s investments will be significantly leveraged by improved public systems that ensure that homelessness is rare, brief, and nonrecurring.
Today Melville Trust is headquartered in New Haven, Connecticut. The organization also maintains a small satellite office in Boston for Massachusetts-based staff, and has meeting rooms at the Lyceum in Hartford. It is expected that the Trust will retain its headquarters in Connecticut, which will continue to be a central focus for the organization.
Melville Trust has an annual operating budget of nearly $1.7 million and a staff of seven, including the Executive Director. Reporting directly to the Executive Director are the Vice President of Programs, Program Director, Finance Specialist, and Executive Assistant. The Vice President of Programs supervises the Senior Program Officer and the Director of Communications (currently vacant). Melville Trust is governed by an eight-member Board of Directors, which represents both the regional and national interests of the foundation.
Melville Trust is a nonprofit, non-stock Connecticut corporation, and a private charitable foundation exempt from tax under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Its current assets stand at $146 million. Melville Trust is neither a “spend down” nor a “perpetual” foundation; its priority is to apply its funds productively and efficiently in service of its mission. Therefore, in 2016 Melville Trust increased its spend rate from 5% to 6%. The Board’s decision to adopt this spending policy rests on its conviction that the current state of homelessness in the United States is unacceptable and that the need for ambitious action is urgent. The organization’s investments are managed by an investment firm based in Connecticut.
The Trust continues to own the Lyceum building and Fireboxrestaurant through two LLCs. The Lyceum is operated on a day-to-day basis by the Partnership for Strong Communities and is managed by the Preservation of Affordable Housing. The Trust is the holder of a mortgage note on the Billings Forge property through a separate LLC.
In April 2019, Janice Elliott announced her intention to retire as Executive Director. Her successor at Melville Trust will inherit a strong, vibrant, and forward-looking organization, well-positioned for a new era of leadership. Board and staff alike are proud of the organization’s achievements and are enthusiastic about its future. As a practical visionary, the Trust’s next leader will bring experience advocating for and achieving measurable outcomes related to systemic change and will also have executed scalable and sustainable solutions for which there is clear evidence of effectiveness. The successful candidate will bring experience as an accomplished convener, with the ability to maintain and grow Melville Trust’s key collaborative efforts. A demonstrated commitment to dismantling structural racism and other forms of entrenched inequality will be critical. The Trust’s next leader will work diligently and tirelessly to shift the policy landscape to create improved public systems that ensure homelessness becomes a thing of the past.
Opportunities and Challenges
The next Executive Director of Melville Trust will have the opportunity to address a number of key opportunities and challenges:
Continue to shift Melville Trust’s focus “upstream,” while ensuring its continued attention to systemic solutions to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
Critical for Melville Trust’s next Executive Director will be maintaining a balance between dealing with an interdisciplinary – or “intersectional” – problem and maintaining a sharp focus on homelessness. The Executive Director will regularly assess and adjust, as necessary, the organization’s strategic focus while ensuring continued mission alignment. This next leader will stay abreast of trends and developments in homelessness, housing, philanthropy, and the field at large, and will identify and foster opportunities for grantees, partners, staff, Board, and others to learn and contribute to the understanding of these new approaches. A healthy balance will be maintained between Melville Trust’s national and Connecticut-based initiatives, creating ever-closer links between grantmaking and state and national advocacy efforts. The next Executive Director will work closely with Board and staff to develop and advance effective implementation plans to achieve Melville Trust’s goals within its strategic program areas. The Executive Director will also develop new and creative initiatives and strategies and will encourage the Trust to embrace innovation and take well-calculated risks.
Develop and actualize Melville Trust’s racial equity framework.
The next Executive Director will be responsible for the refinement, articulation, implementation, and extension of Melville Trust’s racial equity framework. As a foundation well-known for influencing systems on the local and national level, the Trust is well-positioned to push for action and scale in this area, encouraging positive and progressive anti-racist efforts across the homelessness field, and in Melville Trust’s own grantmaking and organizational efforts. The Trust will proactively engage diverse groups to inform its racial equity strategy and will ensure there are measurable outcomes. The Executive Director will be experienced leading and facilitating equity efforts within an organizational context and will work to foster an internal culture at the Trust in which Board and staff are comfortable engaging in difficult but rewarding conversations around race and privilege.
Strengthen and enhance Melville Trust’s partnerships and collaborative efforts.
Melville Trust has long been recognized nationally as a strong and credible voice, rooted in comprehensive, lasting systems change. The Trust has thus been able to engage much larger foundations and other organizational partners in collective efforts to end homelessness. With no end in sight to the housing crisis, there is significant room for the Trust to become even bolder in its efforts and in leveraging its influence. The next Executive Director will continue to cultivate and nurture existing strategic and collaborative relationships with local, state, and national partners, grantees, and funders. And in an effort to bring greater visibility to proven methods that end homelessness, the Executive Director, together with staff and Board, will build new connections beyond the homelessness field to other areas, including housing, health, and employment.
Increase the quality and impact of Melville Trust’s external communications.
The Executive Director will continue to strengthen the Trust’s use of strategic communications to further its goals and those of its grantees and other stakeholders. This next leader will amplify Melville Trust’s voice and will serve as an articulate and credible spokesperson for the organization. Moving forward, there is an opportunity for Melville Trust to elevate its mission in the public domain, especially in circulating its message beyond the homelessness field to other areas, such as housing, health, and employment, and by being more outspoken through social media, through campaigns, and via other channels. With new leadership at the helm, Melville Trust will launch a search for a Director of Communications to accomplish these objectives.
Support the Board in its governance role.
The Executive Director will inspire, guide, and structure the work of the Board of Directors as it continues to evolve as a governance body. This will include Board committee support, investment oversight, and Board development, including the recruitment of new Board members and leadership succession planning. This next Executive Director will also have the opportunity to shape the Board, paying particular attention to recruiting and retaining a racially and ethnically diverse Board, as well as one representing a diversity of experience and perspectives.
Retain, attract, and develop the strongest possible staff.
The next Executive Director of Melville Trust will join a small and disciplined organization with an independent, motivated, and highly knowledgeable staff who are held to the highest standards of excellence. Moving forward, there is an opportunity for Melville Trust to more closely coordinate its grantmaking work across strategy areas and partnerships, and to continue to connect its local and national work. This next leader will reinforce a culture of open communication, transparency, collaboration, accountability, and results.
Qualifications and Experience
An ideal candidate for the Executive Director position at Melville Trust will bring the following professional experiences and personal attributes:
- Passion and demonstrated commitment to Melville Trust’s mission to prevent and end homelessness through systemic change;
- A track record of strategic leadership and effective management of a mission-driven organization, with an eye for innovative opportunities and a willingness to take calculated risks;
- An understanding of the impacts of institutional and structural racism on underserved and underrepresented communities, and a commitment to racial justice in all aspects of the Trust’s work;
- Deep understanding of the intersectionality of the multiple systems affecting homelessness and the people who experience it;
- Experience developing policy and advocacy initiatives both locally and nationally, as well as a pragmatic understanding of how to build a movement for progress and change. Strong networks and a breadth of contacts in the policy and advocacy spheres are ideal;
- Experience building and sustaining collaborative networks and alliances and working effectively in partnership with diverse groups, nonprofit organizations, and other funders;
- Respect for the grantee community and the importance of its strong partnership with Melville Trust, coupled with a recognition of the role that power plays in relationships and the understanding that individuals are shaped by different life experiences, priorities, and interests;
- An abiding commitment to place-based activities in Connecticut. If the Executive Director does not reside in Connecticut, they must demonstrate how they would lead effectively, supporting the Trust’s Connecticut-based work and maintaining a regular physical presence with staff;
- A commitment to rigor, accountability, and outcome measurement, and an appreciation for the role that data, evaluation, and research play in informing and driving change;
- A record of cultivating a positive work environment and supporting and collaborating with a skilled team, as well as the ability to mentor, delegate, and encourage initiative and independent thinking;
- Experience working with a board of directors in a collegial and respectful manner, while offering clear leadership and direction;
- Demonstrated skill in financial management, budgeting, and planning;
- An open, welcoming personality with strong interpersonal and communications skills.
All inquiries, nominations, and applications with resumes and cover letters may be submitted to:
Rebecca Swartz, Partner
Tatiana Oberkoetter, Associate
263 Summer Street, 7th Floor
Boston, MA 02210
Electronic submission of application materials is strongly encouraged.
The Melville Charitable Trust is an equal opportunity employer and candidates from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply.