Meet our members! AFN’s greatest asset is our members—a diverse network of national, regional, and community-based foundations, financial institutions, and grantmakers—investing in advancing equitable wealth building and economic mobility. Check back each month and meet your peers!
1: What is the mission of your organization and how is advancing equitable wealth building and economic mobility incorporated into the work?
Our mission is to put philanthropy into action to create lasting solutions that result in vibrant communities within our region. To achieve this mission, the Hartford Foundation is taking significant steps to help dismantle structural racism and advance equity in social and economic mobility in Greater Hartford’s Black and Latinx communities. We have reevaluated our grant making practices and implemented a grants process redesign based on feedback from a wide range of community partners. Our learning and evaluation and grantmaking staff have invested time to train in Equitable Evaluation Practice and we lean into trust-based philanthropy practices both formally and informally to partner with community organizations and those closest to community challenges to inform and shift our strategies.
2: How does your organization bridge the racial wealth gap?
In collaboration with a wide range of community partners, we seek to progress toward our goals by supporting five outcome areas, prioritizing residents of color:
Increase the number of Hartford residents living in higher-opportunity neighborhoods
Improve the physical and emotional well-being of residents
Increase employment opportunities for Black and Latinx residents
Increase civic engagement, participation, and awareness
Increase equity and inclusion in the arts sector
We offer grantmaking opportunities to support an array of resident-driven advocacy and community organizing, which in turn helps us understand the issues identified as most critical to community partners and residents. Further, we have cultivated key partnerships with BIPOC-led funders serving our region, shifting our grant making decisions and funds to them for regranting at their discretion and to build their own organizational capacity and strength.
3: Where are we lacking investments as a sector that will result in greater economic equity, and how can we address the gap?
In Connecticut and the Greater Hartford region, there is a significant need for more high-quality, affordable housing throughout the region (and beyond the urban center). Connecticut lacks about 89,000 units of housing that are affordable to the lowest-income renters. As a result, many Hartford residents are at risk of being priced out of the rental market. This has also created stagnation in the flow of the shelter system; statewide, the average length of stay in an emergency shelter is 77 days. Unfortunately, vulnerable residents in the shelter system who have housing vouchers still struggle to find suitable housing. Investment in more affordable housing for both rental and homeowner options builds pathways to greater economic mobility and wealth-building.
4: Share a question you would like to raise to your AFN community.
How are you building time for learning and understanding from work created through investment and partnership while looking to identify new organizations to support?
5: What have been some of the biggest benefits of being part of the Asset Funders Network?
The most significant benefit gained from being part of the Asset Funders Network is the opportunity to think, collaborate, and network with fellow funders across New England. There is so much institutional knowledge to pass down in this work, as many peer funders have been involved with funding for equal housing for years. The opportunity to learn and develop partnerships outside of my grantmaking region has been transformative.
6: What event or activity in your community have you most enjoyed resuming in the past year?
Over the past year, I’ve enjoyed getting back into the community and volunteering for events. I’ve assisted several Hartford area road races, lent a hand to participant registration, served as course marshal, and handed out finisher medals. As a runner myself, it’s great to see other runners achieving their goals.
About Damion Baker, Community Impact Officer, Hartford Foundation
Damion joined the Hartford Foundation in May 2022 and focuses his work in our Basic Human Needs and Higher Opportunity Neighborhoods outcome teams. He has dedicated his professional career to stable housing and homelessness prevention for Connecticut residents. Previously, he led a dynamic team of Rapid Rehousing Support specialists with Community Housing Resources (CHR), collaborated with a variety of nonprofit organizations in Connecticut and Massachusetts as Development Project Manager with the Corporation for Independent Living, and managed transitional living programs for Mercy Housing and Shelter. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Central Connecticut State University.