Program Director, Melville Charitable Trust
Susan Thomas is a Program Director at the Melville Charitable Trust. Susan handles grantmaking and knowledge development for key aspects of the Trust’s strategic plan. Her work advances effective strategies to increase housing affordability where she’s currently providing leadership to a collaborative of eleven national foundations focused on this issue. Additionally, her portfolio of grants supports the Trust’s goal of ending chronic homelessness. Susan also leads the expansion of an outcome measurement system to assess the Trust’s impact, leads the Trusts racial equity work, and provides support and guidance on the Trust’s financial and business planning activities.
Prior to joining the Trust, Susan was Project Officer for Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta, where she was responsible for leading “Unsheltered No More!,” an initiative to dramatically reduce street homelessness that placed over 1,000 homeless men, women, and children into permanent housing. As an independent consultant, she led the launch of a statewide foundation to support foster families for the First Lady of Georgia and co-chaired an effort for the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Atlanta Housing Authority to responsibly relocate 420 families as part of a major HOPE VI redevelopment project. Susan is a former Vice President of Community Investment and Area Development at the United Way of Greater Atlanta where she oversaw grantmaking and community impact strategies across 13 counties. Prior to her nonprofit career, she worked for 15 years in the areas of accounting, management consulting, and strategic planning. She holds a Master of Business Administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Maryland.
The majority of poor families in America who are renters spend over half of their income on housing costs, and eviction is upending their lives. Pulitzer Prize-winning sociologist Matthew Desmond’s work points to housing instability as a key cause, not just a symptom, of poverty in the U.S. Given this, all those who seek to address poverty and inequality must learn about and address this crisis. Desmond’s talk will be followed by discussion among a panel of experts will explore the question of what funders can most effectively do to work toward solutions to this problem.
Foundations have an opportunity to influence policy in profound ways. How should foundation leaders think about their role influencing policy? What is the spectrum of approaches available? What are lessons learned from attempts to influence policy and create new partnerships? If you or your foundation wish to influence policy or are merely curious about the policy realm, join us for a rich discussion that will include three case studies of local, regional, and national policy change efforts by foundations (including community foundations) on topics including the opioid epidemic, the water crisis in Flint, and housing.