You know the old saying: “Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life.” Brian Basinger, Founder and Executive Director of Q Foundation, didn’t coin the phrase, but he’s certainly a stellar representation of it. For Basinger, however, it goes way beyond a “job”… it’s a calling.
For nearly two decades, Basinger has led Q Foundation—a nonprofit that provides housing support to seniors, disabled adults, HIV+ renters, families, and those impacted by COVID-19.
“The typical lifespan of an Executive Director is five years. I’ve been doing it for 18 years, so I must really love it,” Basinger said.
Over those 18 years, Basinger and his team have grown Q Foundation, built a 7-million-dollar organization, and helped find housing for thousands of people living on the street or facing homelessness. Over the past 5 years, they have grown by 1500%. Basinger is also exceptionally active as an advocate for social services reform.
From the start, Basinger felt a precise connection to the work and an innate passion for the cause. Having been homeless himself at one point, he knew all too well the stress and pain of living on the street. So when the time came to help others faced with both homelessness and living with HIV, he went after it with full force.
In fact, so strong is Basinger’s connection to his cause that it all came to him in a dream.
“I woke up to a loud booming voice [on December 15, 2003, to be exact] telling me that I must find housing for people with AIDS!”
That same morning, out of the blue, Basinger got a call from his boyfriend’s property manager asking for help placing HIV+, subsidy-assisted tenants in a few of the property’s open units.
By noon (yes, just a few hours later), Basinger had scoped out the program model and name, secured free office space for a year, and landed news coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle and Bay Area Reporter. True story.
“I realized that instead of pointing fingers at the system of care for what it wasn't providing us, the universe was giving me an opportunity to go in and meet those needs. And, by extension, the needs of others who had been lost or forgotten within the social services sector.”
Basinger knew that, to create something truly revolutionary, he had to start locally—and from scratch.
“True innovation doesn’t happen at a high level. That’s why we started locally in San Francisco and from square one. We wanted to be pioneers, push social services entrepreneurship, and invest in R&D to create real change in the sector. This included partnering with technology companies like BILL to deliver resources as efficiently as possible.”
Basinger and his team have developed an operational model so intuitive, in fact, that state and federal agencies can easily replicate it. And it all started with a piece of custom-built software. The tech stack included a third-party customer relationship management solution and QuickBooks Online. Basinger and the whole team were spending two weeks writing and mailing checks every month. When COVID hit, he knew they needed to elevate their tech stack and BILL was the lynchpin that enabled him to scale the program.
“To continue supporting the community, we had to be able to work remotely, which BILL allowed us to do immediately. But we quickly found out that it could do so much more. The system made everything so much easier.”
This included automating the payment plan process for tenants, virtually eliminating manual processes (like printing and signing hundreds of checks), reducing the monthly close process from two weeks to just a day and a half, offering full transparency into the numbers for real-time views of cash flow, and more.
“When we connected BILL to our own custom-built database, it took us to a whole new level,” Basinger said. “The system processes everything for us: it keeps our time; it's the intake; it's the assessment; it's the evaluation. It’s how we pay the checks, how we run monthly batches, and how we do all of our reporting.” — Brian Basinger, Founder and Executive Director of Q Foundation
Visibility into data has also made easier work of securing funding. Basinger explained: “We built a system where lawmakers can get a clear view of exactly who's getting funding and where it's going. It shows how we establish community-based equity targets, and then how we're meeting those targets. Because they can see results, they keep giving us money.”
And they do keep giving money. Basinger attributes the ability to scale so rapidly to the integrated, cloud-based tech stack they’ve built.
It all started with a dream. Basinger had a vision of what he wanted to do and has worked for nearly 2 decades to make that dream a reality: a system that truly works for people in need of housing.
Today, that dream extends beyond his local community. Basinger now has his sights set on revolutionizing the social services sector nationwide.
“Once we got into BILL, I saw that there's no difference between paying rent for somebody across the city and across the nation. I truly believe we’ve got the tech stack that could be a national rent payment platform.” — Brian Basinger, Founder and Executive Director of Q Foundation
And why not? The system has undergone an 18-year test period. It’s also enabled Q Foundation to grow from a zero-dollar to a 7-million-dollar organization and helped provide housing for thousands over the years.
“I would like to see every nonprofit in America using our platform. Why spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building one when we’ve got one right here?”
Basinger added: “We run a highly efficient operation and that's because of technology and our partnership with BILL.”