Hilton’s New Foster Youth Strategy: What L.A. Nonprofits Need to Know

photo:  mdurson /shutterstock

photo: mdurson/shutterstock

Over the past year or so, we’ve been particularly interested in potential funding shifts at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation due to leadership transitions and an expected influx of new resources from Barron Hilton's estate. The eventual expansion of Hilton's grantmaking can only be a good thing for Los Angeles nonprofits, where the foundation has been a stalwart local funder. Still, anytime foundations go through change and bring in new leadership—in this case, a first non-family CEO, Peter Laugharn—longtime grantees will understandably want to keep their eyes peeled for any changes that affect their funding. 

So far, though, Hilton has largely stayed the course—at least when it comes to its overall priorities. For Los Angeles groups, the big topics of Hilton interest continue to be homelessness and foster youth. This hasn't changed. However, a new direction for the foster youth program was unveiled earlier this month. The Hilton board approved a new five-year strategy for its foster youth giving, a program split between Los Angeles and New York City.

The first phase of Hilton’s foster youth strategy ran from 2012 to 2017, during which the foundation invested $53.5 million into the cause. The new strategy has three missions: strengthen systems and policy for transition-age foster youth, expand and share knowledge with the field, and advance innovative transition-age foster youth programs. You can read more about how the funder arrived at this new strategy in Eric Robinson’s article, "Nurturing the Potential of Transition Age Foster Youth: Learnings from our Foster Youth Partner Convening."

Close watchers of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation will note that this shift exemplifies this funder's tendency to stay focused on its core concerns over a long period of time, while moving in other ways—methodically seeking to bolster the impact of its program work by revisiting and tweaking its strategies. 

The first Los Angeles-based grant under the new foster youth strategy went to the Children’s Data Network at the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. This $825,000 grant is aimed at older foster youth in Los Angeles and at linking key indicators on health and child welfare. Hilton has committed over $1.5 million to the foster youth priority area so far in 2017.

This grant was part of Hilton’s second quarter round of giving, which included 31 grants totaling $25.5 million. Since new strategic plans have not yet been announced for other Los Angeles-focused programs, the Hilton Foundation continues to award grants in much the same way that it has in the past. In the area of homelessness, for example, Hilton awarded a $400,000 grant to L.A. Voice to engage faith leaders in the county to work together to reduce housing insecurity and end homelessness.

Homelessness continues to be an even bigger cause for Hilton these days, with at least $8.7 million going toward ending chronic homelessness in Los Angeles County so far this year. Earlier in 2017, the funder also gave homelessness grants to Union Station Homeless Services, L.A. Family Housing, and the Corporation for Supportive Housing, among others. As we've written in the past, Hilton is near the forefront of an increasingly optimistic push by homelessness funders who believe that permanent supportive housing offers a breakthrough solution to a perennially frustrating issue. Learn more about the foundation’s take on local homelessness by reading Senior Program Officer Andrea Iloulian’s latest article, "Framing for Impact: Ending Homelessness in Los Angeles County."

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Hilton's substance use prevention funding really stands out. The funder has committed big money to this cause at both local and national levels. This is an issue that unfortunately intersects with homelessness and foster youth, which brings the broad national interest a little bit closer to home. Hilton recently gave substance use prevention grants of $1 million or more to Abt Associates, the Friends Research Institute and the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College Foundation.

So far in 2017, Hilton has given over $9.3 million to substance use prevention causes, and these grants have been very large compared to other grantmaking categories lately.  Screening and early intervention practices for 15- to 22-year-olds remains a big priority for this funder. More about that topic can be found in the Community Convening Guide released by one of Hilton’s grant partners.

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation assets are at about $2.6 billion right now. But that endowment will roughly double when Barron Hilton's wealth becomes available for the foundation's use.