Re: Funding and Organizational Model for Coho US
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 2015 07:43:02 -0700 (PDT)
> On Jun 4, 2015, at 3:57 PM, Alice Alexander <alicecohous [at]> 
> wrote:
> As a career fundraiser and foundation manager, I do not see how Coho/US could 
> attract foundation support - given we are not targeting most foundation's 
> "priority" audience of need. Am I missing something? Of late, I've been 
> trying to attract funding for research but even that is a hard sell.

I think funders want to fund a project that is targeted toward change. A 
foundation a friend works for lost their major foundation funding and almost 
went under because the foundation wanted to fund  projects that made an impact 
today. The organization was doing workshops for professionals and funding a 
speakers bureau. They felt that  national publicity for the cause would bring 
change faster than education on an individual basis. 

So interviewing foundations to see what they would be interested in about 
cohousing would be a start.

But also look at cohousing more broadly than just starting communities and 
providing support services. These are important but as everyone knows it is 
currently a middle-class movement. Even when cohousers are not rich, they are 
well educated. That places them higher on the socio-economic scale. 

So one question might be "What would it take to move the lessons of cohousing 
into the public awareness” so they can be applied in other contexts. 
Particularly affordable and low income housing. 

Another might be “What would a lower socio-economic class need to make a 
cohousing-like community workable?”  Most cohousing communities seem to be in 
areas with a university or lots of colleges. 

The presentation at the conference on Swedish cohousing was interesting in this 
way. The cohousing was more like typical housing projects that required 
donating time for gardening and other tasks. They are very large buildings. 
Moving cohousing from a highly educated population to the less educated would 
require what?

The book that Ann Zabaldo and others wrote to interest developers in cohousing 
was very well done. It said what developers need to know.

Funding for a project working with Habitat for Humanity to build a whole 
community. The small house movement. A small house community. Partnering with 
groups that already have a national awareness presence. 

Those are also projects that would bring more donations from individuals. They 
would be supporting more than an interest in themselves and the middle class.

How to work with government agencies to allow/promote cohousing features into 
public housing. 

It sounds like a move away from the things Coho US has started doing well but I 
think it feeds cohousing. It adds a spark. As another poster just said and 
others have found as well, the bloom is a bit off the flower in terms of 
finding burning souls who want to do the work required to start a community 
from scratch. Condominium associations are finding that building community in a 
building decreases turn over. Does it also may produce more cooperative and 
self-sufficient residents?

How to develop shared housing into child-friendly communities. What does it 

Banks may also have foundations that fund community projects. What if cohousing 
worked with a bank that would take an interest in cohousing that could fund 
projects nationally. They would be familiar with the concept and provide both 
construction loans and mortgages. And donate to the organization. What bank has 
funded the most projects? Or would a small bank be a more likely candidate? 
They would have to be able to fund in all 50 states.

Obviously all this is a lot of work to get off the ground, but the working with 
an already established organization also brings you their contacts. And ideas. 
Finding the key visionary in those organizations would be key. But cohousers 
have tons of contacts. Raines Cohen alone could produce a long list. Send him 
in with his hat. He’s very persuasive and speaks well. Ann Zabaldo always has 
her ear to the pavement. 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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