The AARP Foundation's Rigorous and Integrated Approach to Housing

The AARP Foundation is the philanthropic arm of AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons), the well-known paid-membership group for those aged 50 and up. In line with its membership organization, the mission of the AARP Foundation is to serve “vulnerable people 50+ by creating and advancing effective solutions that help them secure the essentials.”

“Secure the essentials” is this foundation’s take on addressing poverty. Indeed, poverty—and its alleviation—is the orbit around which the foundation does its work (and distributes its grants). As the American population ages, AARP Foundation is attempting to combat a slide into poverty, noting that that by 2030, one in every five Americans will be age 65 or older. The foundation is therefore “working toward a country free of poverty, where no older person feels vulnerable.”

AARP Foundation grants focus around RFPs that the foundation posts at various points throughout the year, and the foundation takes pride in its own internal rigor at determining and framing these grant opportunities, viewing them simultaneously as collaboration for social good, a contribution to research and a call to action. These RFPs are centered around four designated focus areas where the AARP Foundation believes that “action and legal advocacy will have the greatest impact:” Hunger, Housing, Isolation and Income.

Though this post is about housing, it’s important to note all of these quadrants, because for AARP Foundation they are strongly interrelated. 

For housing, the most directly applicable impact area is, well of course, Housing. Through its age 50+ filter, this foundation sees a housing crisis that must simultaneously address a range of physical abilities and needs, and cites two strategic goals: to increase the affordable housing supply and improve the number of "adequate homes."

On its website, the foundation notes: “Uncertainty is the new normal. Americans age 50 and over face choices and pressures unlike those of any other age group—choices no one could have prepared for.”

This is more than a casual (albeit dire) statement. Rather, it elucidates the foundation’s attempt to fix things, to be as proactive, quantitative, and research-based as possible amidst the uncertainty older Americans face. All of the foundation’s RFPs—and therefore all of its grantees—center around the implementation of evidence-based solutions. The foundation likewise expects rigorous returns. It looks for quantitative outputs, of course (such as the number of people served) but also wants to see notable outcomes (rates of effectiveness as compared to other programs). Be prepared for this rigor, but don’t let it scare you off. The foundation says it will work with you “to ensure we can capture the data necessary to measure the results to achieve acceptable returns.”

Recent housing grantees include $122,161 to Habitat for Humanity (Atlanta, GA); $50,000 to Rebuilding Together San Diego (San Diego, CA); and $50,000 to ROC USA Community Center (Concord, NH).

When the AARP Foundation’s RFPs are posted, they’re open to any and all. They state: “Whether you are a new, innovative organization serving the 50+ or a time-tested one that has supported older adults in need for years, we welcome your grant application.”

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