TITLE: Director, Domestic Programs
FUNDING AREAS: Homelessness, foster youth, substance abuse, disaster relief and recovery, hospitality education, and multiple sclerosis
CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)
IP TAKE: Pitkin's passions include homelessness reduction and urban planning in L.A., but he and his team invest tens of millions every year in a range of health- and economic-related projects, mostly run by large, established nonprofits.
PROFILE: The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is the legacy of its namesake, hotelier and philanthropist extraordinaire. The foundation was originally established as a trust of Hilton Hotels in 1944, and it has grown through the years into a major philanthropic organization with assets of more than $2 billion.
The Conrad Hilton Foundation's missions are ambitious and diverse; its 11 "priority" funding areas range in scope from improving the lives of foster youth in the United States to eradicating blindness in the developing world. Directing the foundation's investments in its various domestic programs is Bill Pitkin, Ph.D.
The foundation grants some $80-plus million each year to groups around the world engaging in what it refers to as relief for "the suffering, the distressed, and the destitute." About 60 percent of that goes to charitable organizations in the United States. It is these domestic investments that fall under Pitkin's purview, with support that it consists of only five other people.
Pitkin received his master's degree and doctorate from UCLA in urban planning, and he has spent years both in and outside of academia applying his educational background to solving policy problems facing urban areas, particularly homelessness. He was a research director in urban planning at UCLA and, prior to joining the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, held high-level positions at non-profit organizations combating homelessness and poverty, primarily in Los Angeles. Most recently, Pitkin was director of research and planning at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.
At the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Pitkin helped develop the organization's strategy for addressing chronic homelessness in Los Angeles and continues to have direct oversight of the anti-homelessness campaign. But given the diversity of domestic programs in which the foundation has interests (see the six funding areas listed above), Pitkin oversees grant implementation in areas that have nothing to do with homelessness, urban planning, or even Los Angeles. But that does not mean his team's non-homelessness-related grants are not large or impactful. Rather, a look at some of the recent domestic grants reveals that the team regularly makes major investments in organizations around the country that, if different in mission, are established and effective at contributing to America's health and economic well-being.
A few of the Conrad Hilton Foundation's large and recent grants include:
- $1 million to Buffalo, New York's Olmstead Center for Sight to assist people with visual impairments and physical disabilities in establishing careers in the hospitality industry
- $1 million to United Friends of the Children to help foster youth in Los Angeles prepare to attend, and presumably graduate from, four-year universities
- $2 million to the Corporation for Supportive Housing to establish a national supportive housing loan fund
- $1 million to the American National Red Cross to improve disaster preparedness in Los Angeles
- $1.3 million to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation to improve multiple sclerosis treatment, particularly for underserved populations, in and around Las Vegas, Nevada
From a grantseeker's perspective, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation is a dream funder: big grants that extend over multiple years, a great reputation, and smart people. While the foundation shows no signs of letting up in its generosity, organizations interested in gaining its support will have to find some creative ways of achieving that goal. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation calls itself a "proactive grantmaker," meaning it does not accept unsolicited applications for funding. It does appear, however, that the organizations Pitkin and his team choose to invest in have a few things in common: they're mostly large, established, and already engaged in one of the foundation's priority funding areas. Also, Pitkin has a pretty obvious (and understandable, given his background) soft spot for projects designed to reduce poverty and/or homelessness in the Los Angeles region.