KHF celebrates decade of grantmaking

As 2020 approaches, the Kansas Health Foundation would like to take a few moments to reflect back on the work it has done over the last decade.

The foundation has had the privilege in the last 10 years to provide more than $230 million in qualifying distributions for new grants to strategic partners and initiatives in Kansas.

Its mission, “To improve the health of all Kansans,” reminds the foundation of the endless opportunities for change and the awesome responsibility to make a difference. Each year KHF provides approximately $20 million in funding support to Kansas organizations across the state that work to create an environment of health and to strengthen communities.

KHF’s grantmaking has helped fund policy, systems and environmental change through the work of dedicated partners and advocates.

Let’s take a look at some of the largest investments the foundation has made in Kansas to improve health over the last 10 years:

Giving Resources to Our World

In 2018, KHF celebrated the conclusion of its Giving Resources to Our World (GROW) initiative, a 20-year, $60 million investment to create or grow community foundations across the state.

GROW generated a sustainable source of local funding to use for more strategic, community-based grantmaking. At the time, this was a foreign concept in many communities. Today, that is no longer the case. KHF is proud to have been a big part of that.

The initiative helped Kansas community foundations build walking trails and bike racks to promote healthy living, supported classroom projects to help students succeed, installed playground equipment to improve children’s health and created better access to health care resources.

In Derby, GROW funds helped the community build and connect 25 miles of hiking and biking paths, strengthened its summer lunch program and give scholarships to students and low-income seniors.

“I tell people that the community foundation touches everybody,” said Theresa Hearn, executive director of the Derby Community Foundation. “If you participate in anything – hiked a trail, enjoyed the sculptures and trees in Derby, the community foundation has touched you in some way.”

KHF’s GROW initiative began through a 10-year, $30 million commitment starting in 1999, when KHF worked with a group of community foundations to establish matching challenges and to grow assets, create special health and wellness funds and become trained in philanthropic leadership.

The effort quickly became fruitful as during the first decade of the program, participating community foundations grew their collective assets from $19 million to more than $95 million. Most importantly, these organizations distributed $33 million in grants back into their communities.

This success led to another 10-year, $30 million KHF commitment in 2009. The second round of GROW involved working with 39 community foundations to create a self-sufficient foundation field in Kansas.

Through GROW, community foundations were able to build upon KHF investments to increase their total assets from the initial $19 million to more than $693 million in 20 years (1999–2018). This initiative helped build the capacity of community foundations, increase local grantmaking/resources and cultivate philanthropic leadership to make Kansas healthier and more prosperous.

Supporting Infrastructure

As KHF worked within communities or advocated for policy changes, KHF saw a need for two critical pieces: data and leadership. KHF saw this as a great opportunity to establish long-term, supporting infrastructure systems. This led to the creation of the Kansas Health Institute (KHI) (founded in 1995) and the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) (founded in 2005). KHF provides ongoing operational support to each of these separate nonprofit organizations.

KLC grew from a belief that building leadership skills within communities helps residents have the capacity to tackle difficult issues. Since it began, KLC has engaged Kansans from nonprofit groups, the faith community, businesses, local governments and educational institutions in developing leadership skills, regardless of their titles or positions, to institute change.

During this past decade, the most significant moment in the KHF-KLC relationship came in the fall of 2013, when the organizations celebrated the grand opening of the Kansas Leadership Center and Kansas Health Foundation Conference Center, which is located next door to the foundation’s headquarters in downtown Wichita.

Since the opening of the new building, more than 10,000 people have been through a KLC program built around competencies to work toward the common good.

“The building has been a game changer for leadership development in Kansas. It’s such an amazing feeling when a couple hundred Kansans, from all walks of life, all parts of the state and all perspectives, fill the building,” said Ed O’Malley, KLC president and CEO. “We think of it as the ‘living room for the state of Kansas’ – a place for Kansans to come together to discuss, debate, and, most importantly, discover ways forward, together.”

Healthier Kansas Communities

During the course of the last decade, the foundation also provided funding to strengthen healthy behaviors at the local level through its Healthy Communities Initiative (HCI) equating to more than $13 million for Kansas communities.

Phases one and two provided nearly $6 million in total funding for 20 communities across Kansas to work on local policy initiatives focused on improving access to healthy foods and increasing physical activity opportunities.

Projects ranged from changing policies related to healthy food options in public vending machines and concessions to improving or adding biking/walking trails to encourage exercise.

One example of these local efforts comes from Mitchell County, located in north central Kansas, where a local coalition called AWARE NCK decided to promote healthier lifestyles by connecting the area with sidewalks and trails. This included sidewalks that led right up to an elementary school to encourage more students to walk or ride bicycles each day.

This emphasis on locally sourced solutions continued in 2017 when KHF provided funding for a third phase of HCI. During this ongoing phase, 18 communities are receiving grants to strengthen community coalitions and address social and economic issues that impact health.

“KHF provided funding and offered technical assistance to help communities engage stakeholders to implement the healthy eating and/or active living policy priorities they had identified and promote grassroots advocacy efforts to improve the conditions where their residents live, work and play,” said Deanna Van Hersh vice president for programs at KHF. “This proved successful, and now resident-led teams are mobilizing to address health inequities impacting their communities.”

With 2020 just around the corner, KHF looks forward to further advancing its mission of improving the health of all Kansans. Stay tuned by following KHF on social media for all that is to come as KHF works toward its mission in the coming decade.

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