2010 - 2012 Cohort

Individual Projects and Impacts

This section provides a brief overview of each of the 2010 - 2012 Innovation Fund partner initiatives, the impacts the initiatives had on the communities they serve, as well as the key impact of the fund on shifting the work of the partner foundations toward equitable policy and environmental change strategies.

Chicago Community Trust, Chicago, IL

This section provides a brief overview of each of the 2010-2012 Innovation Fund partner initiatives, the impacts the initiatives had on the communities they serve, as well as the key impact of the fund on shifting the work of the partner foundations toward equitable policy and environmental change strategies.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

The Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo (CFGB) was established in 1919 to enhance and encourage long-term philanthropy in the Western New York community. Increasing economic self-sufficiency for low-income individuals and families and enhancing and leveraging Western New York's significant natural resources are key impact areas for the foundation. The foundation's mission is "Connecting people, ideas, and resources to improve lives in Western New York."


Innovation: CFGB's innovation is the integration of food access, built environment policy, and environmental change activities with more traditional environmental issues through funding projects relying on multi-field partnerships.


Impact: A focus on equity and policy change will be part of an upcoming five-year strategic plan for the foundation. With the Innovation Fund, CFGB accelerated its leadership role, emphasis on community change, and proactive grantmaking in land use and food access issues. IF resources supported the foundation to direct more of its energy towards equity, community leadership, policy and environmental change strategies, and multi-field partnerships. In addition, the city of Buffalo has recognized the foundation's leadership on land use and environmental issues and is relying on them to bring more community voices, in particular low-income and communities of color, to the table during community participation processes held by the city. CFGB also increased their capacity to implement strategies that promote equity through the additional accountability the IF placed on the foundation. The foundation in turn held their grantees more accountable to equitable processes and outcomes in ways they had never done before.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Memphis, TN

The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis (CFGM), the largest foundation in the area, is a collective of people, families, corporations, and organizations working to strengthen their community and address its needs.


Innovation: This project's innovation saw CFGM bringing together four diverse foundations to create a joint grantmaking initiative modeled on Innovation Fund criteria to fund projects that support policy and environmental change around healthy eating and active living that promote equity.


Impact: Innovation Fund resources enabled the foundation to become a leading community convener around issues related to healthy food access and the built environment, fostering partnerships and facilitating policy and environmental change. The president of the foundation is recommending to the foundation's board that it formally adopt the IF initiative as a strategic investment area. If adopted, CFGM will work with donors to fund the initiative. This initiative marked the first time CFGM made policy change integral to their grantmaking, awarding discretionary grants for projects related to healthy food access and the built environment. The foundation funded advocacy efforts for transportation choices that connect citizens to livable neighborhoods, jobs, services, and residential facilities as well as an initiative to create and launch a Food Policy Council.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

Consumer Health Foundation, Washington, D.C.

The Consumer Health Foundation provides grants to local grassroots and community-based organizations in the metropolitan Washington, DC area. The foundation's mission is to achieve health justice in the region through activities that advance the health and well-being of historically underserved communities.


Innovation: The Consumer Health Foundation has sought to engage and educate other funders, especially those not focused on health, around grantmaking for policy and environmental change using an equity lens and specifically focused on supporting Fresh Food Financing Initiatives at a local and regional level. The foundation's project demonstrates the connections between hunger, obesity prevention, and economic development and relies on a proven model—the Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI).


Impact: Innovation Fund dollars allowed the Consumer Health Foundation to use an equity and justice lens while focusing on targeted efforts to increase access to healthy food. One of their grantees was successful in passing a local FFFI through the City Council in Washington, DC. While the foundation has raised awareness among funders about the development of FFFIs, creating strong partnerships with other funders has been challenging due to the economic climate as well as a lack of understanding or commitment to policy and systems change work. This region is now a Regional Convergence site and will have additional resources to support funder collaboration towards healthy people in healthy places.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

The Health Trust, Silicon Valley, CA

The Health Trust's mission is to lead the Silicon Valley community in advancing wellness with an emphasis on prevention.


Innovation: In a brand new initiative, The Health Trust implemented a place-based, community-driven strategy focused on policy and environmental change related to access to healthy food and land use/built environment. This marked the first time the Trust focused on a place-based community strategy.


Impact: The Health Trust broadened its Healthy Living Initiative grantmaking strategies and now uses the IF framework to prioritize all of its grant recommendations in this area. A focus on equity, policy and environmental change and resident engagement will be enduring criteria for future grantmaking. The Health Trust used the IF to make grants to support collaborative efforts to engage neighborhood residents in advocacy around "active transit" planning processes, to support a coalition focused on changing school nutrition policies, and supported efforts to transform a local park into a hub for healthy food and physical activity, all within one distressed community. Using the Innovation Fund framework, The Trust created a theory of change for active living and healthy eating and is applying this place-based/equity approach in a separate RFP to increase access to healthy food resources in high-need communities. The Trust has shared their efforts with local funders and other stakeholders, including those outside the health sector (such as local redevelopment agencies), and has recruited new members to their Grants Committee who have expertise in addressing root causes of health disparities.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

HNHfoundation, Concord, NH

The mission of HNHfoundation (HNH) is to improve the health outcomes of New Hampshire's most vulnerable children.


Innovation: Using Innovation Fund resources, the HNH Foundation focused on one underserved community—Manchester—through a partnership with the local public health department to bring together multi-field interests towards policy change.


Impact: The IF’s emphasis on policy and environmental change helped HNH make a decision to discontinue funding programs and be intentional about their strategy around policy and environmental change. It also marked the first time a group of funders came together to fund “upstream” efforts to create healthy communities. Using IF resources, HNH fostered a countywide, multi-field policy leadership team with community participation, who came together to create policy and environmental changes to create a healthy Manchester. The project was so successful that the Manchester Health Department made the staff position, created to lead the multi-agency and originally funded by HNH Foundation through the IF efforts, part of the Department’s permanently funded positions. Due to the creation of the multi-agency policy team, the Health Department was in a position to engage in the grant application for HUD’s Sustainable Planning Initiative, which was awarded and now includes health partners.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

Humboldt Area Foundation, Humboldt, CA

The Humboldt Area Foundation (HAF) is a community foundation of and for the North Coast of California for residents to build social, economic, and environmental prosperity.


Innovation: With Innovation Fund dollars, HAF created a Health Equity Initiative focused on building community capacity and making investments to improve nutrition, physical activity and the built environment. HAF has sought to develop leadership skills at the community level through capacity building, community organizing and by developing communication and leadership skills for community groups.


Impact: Innovation Fund dollars gave HAF the opportunity to test whether a community organizing model is the most effective way of helping their community engage in policy and environment change. Working as part of a community collaboration and focusing on the intersection of nutrition, physical activity and the built environment is helping HAF define its long-term commitment to this type of work. While HAF established a grantmaking initiative to support community initiatives and policy creation and implementation, progress on policy and environmental change has been slower than hoped given the capacity and relationship building needed in the community. The capacity of the community groups has increased, the community has become more organized and the HAF has developed better relationships with the community. HAF has developed creative reporting on their grants, easier application processes and other mechanisms to decrease the burden on their grantees and build more effective partnerships with community groups.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

Mary Black Foundation, Spartanburg, SC

The Mary Black Foundation's (MBF) mission is to improve the health and wellness of people and communities in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. The foundation's resources are dedicated to alleviating the underlying causes of poor health by focusing on active living and early childhood development. Innovation: MBF has involved neighborhood residents in a place-based strategy to improve the health of their communities and improve equity through policy and environmental change strategies. They are focusing on two low-income, racially diverse communities in the Spartanburg area. The IF marked MBFs first experience focusing on a community-based and place-based strategy. Impact: Through this initiative, Mary Black has integrated community input and leadership into its grantmaking in two low-income communities and has found resident-led solutions to be powerful motivators for residents, city leaders, and the surrounding community. Foundation staff is considering a proposal that would add access to healthy food to the foundation's core active living funding strategy and, at the foundation's next retreat, the board will consider continuing the IF work as a specific percentage of MBF's philanthropy. In addition, MBF was awarded a contract with the City of Spartanburg to manage economic and community development efforts in the Northside neighborhood and changed a program officer job description to devote 50 percent time to those efforts. MBF also was central to getting a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant to create a food hub in Spartanburg, which brought in half a million dollars to this underserved community and leveraged millions of additional dollars in private and public investment. This hub is meant to revitalize the neighborhood, while ensuring current residents are leading the effort and benefiting from the investment. Read detailed case study of this effort.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

New Mexico Community Foundation, Santa Fe, NM

The New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF) is a statewide endowment building and grantmaking organization that serves and invests in New Mexico's communities and their greatest asset...people. Innovation: Using Innovation Fund resources, NMCF partnered with several local funding partners to launch a policy initiative that will increase access to healthy foods systems issues that have not collaborated due to historic racial, cultural, and class barriers. NMCF, in partnership with these groups, developed a grantmaking initiative to fund on-the-ground environmental change projects to promote healthy food access for rural, low-income Latino and Native American communities, while working to bring together the groups to create statewide policy change around food access. Impact: While NMCF had previously supported food-related initiatives, the Innovation Fund sharpened their focus on collaborative approaches to improve local food systems in underserved communities and helped them draw the local efforts together into a statewide network. The collaboration between three statewide organizations and seven local grantees resulted in the legislative passage of a joint memorial which describes the connections between food, community health, and equity. The memorial was a great tool to educate legislators and other decision-makers about the agricultural and healthy eating issues of rural communities in New Mexico and build advocacy experience and relationships among key advocates to work together at the state level. NMCF has integrated the policy, community leadership, and multi-field approach of the Innovation Fund into other parts of their grantmaking portfolio because of the success of the IF initiative. Read detailed case study of this effort.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

Northwest Health Foundation, Portland, OR

Based in Portland, Oregon, the Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF) advances, supports, and promotes the health of the people of Oregon and southwest Washington.


Innovation: The NWHF created a new grantmaking initiative to intentionally incorporate communities of color in policy and environmental change strategies to improve health in the region. A diverse advisory group representing communities of color took leadership in drafting the Request for Proposals, selecting grants, and supporting grantees.


Impact: The Northwest Health Foundation integrated their commitment to equity with their grantmaking on policy efforts related to physical activity and nutrition by launching a new initiative focused on both. Staff engaged in an outreach and education strategy to inform communities of the fund's intent as well as upcoming policy opportunities to improve built environments and access to healthy foods; awarded seven grants; and worked with a consultant to develop an evaluation strategy to assess the initiative's impact. The Northwest Health Foundation's board saw that the IF initiative supported a more diverse healthy eating/active living movement and, as a result, decided to increase giving in this area. The work of the grantees also helped infuse equity into the region's long term comprehensive plan and began to build relationships among equity advocates and health advocates in the region.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

Raymond John Wean Foundation, Youngstown, OH

The Wean Foundation enhances community well-being in the Mahoning Valley through grant-making, advocacy, and leadership with a focus on economically disadvantaged communities and an emphasis on raising the capacity of recipients to perform their mission.


Innovation: The Wean Foundation created a new Access to Healthy Foods portfolio and convened a multi-field collaborative coalition that includes the foundation and two community partners working together to coordinate and align activities related to health equity and healthy eating and active living.


Impact: In addition to convening a multi-field collaborative on an ongoing basis, through its new initiative, the Wean Foundation made grants focused on policy and environmental change strategies coupled with community organizing and on-the-ground, equity-based neighborhood development strategies. One grantee hosted two community congress events focused on health equity with over 1,400 people attending, including more than 50 elected officials. The same grantee released a comprehensive study on corner stores, food deserts and access to healthy foods, and spearheaded the creation of a Food Policy Council. Another grantee implemented a vacant lot management project, a community supported agriculture program, and partnered with government officials to attract a grocery store to one of Youngstown's most underserved neighborhoods. The collaboration and organizing efforts focused on food access has created a lot of capacity, political interest, and momentum for the region that will continue beyond the IF.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, Santa Monica, CA

The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation (TRAGF) invests in programs that promote education, tolerance, social services, healthcare, and the arts.


Innovation: TRAGF created a new built environment grantmaking initiative with a specific emphasis on increasing access to safe places for physical activity.


Impact: Through the Innovation Fund, the foundation expanded its existing work on diabetes and obesity prevention to include a built environment component and to focus more intentionally on policy and environmental change. The IF encouraged TRAGF to seek new organizations to fund and to focus resources on providing an institutional home to sustain food and physical activity environmental and policy improvements. TRAGF is considering an ongoing grantmaking initiative focused on the built environment and land use and working with their board to ensure more support for policy and environmental change efforts.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

St. Christopher's Foundation for Children, Philadelphia, PA

St. Christopher's Foundation for Children (SCFC) is a grantmaking public charity, operating and supporting programs that increase positive health outcomes for children and families in the North Philadelphia neighborhoods of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Innovation: St. Christopher's work before the IF was focused almost entirely on medical service related programmatic efforts and their grantmaking was reactive instead of proactive and strategic. With the Innovation Fund, SCFC funded a multi-partnered, low-income, community-supported agriculture (CSA) in low-income neighborhoods of North Philadelphia and has sought to build on their CSA efforts to create policy change at the state level to enable SNAP and WIC to be used for the CSA program.


Impact: As a result of their Innovation Fund work, SCFC has become a more proactive, cooperative funder, creating positive funder-grantee relationships and encouraging partnerships between community organizations in ways new to SCFC's board and staff. SCFC has been more deliberate in grantmaking to ensure investments reduce barriers and increase access to opportunities for better health. The foundation reports that due to the IF, board and staff now analyze existing and potential initiatives through an equity lens. The board also has become less risk-averse and is starting to view the foundation as a change maker that can leverage its position to increase collaboration and innovation with community partners. The foundation is now a proactive funder with a strategic direction and leadership focused on increasing equity and improving access to healthy food for low-income communities. St. Christopher's no longer accepts unsolicited proposals for programmatic efforts. Their grants committee has evolved into a program committee focused on assessing community needs and developing innovative strategies, rather than simply making grants.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

Whatcom Community Foundation, Bellingham, WA

Whatcom Community Foundation (WCF) is a public charitable organization that enriches the quality of life for residents of Whatcom County, Washington. WCF works with donors, volunteers, and numerous organizations to meet community needs, support collaboration and innovation for community benefit, and promote community investment.


Innovation: With Innovation Fund dollars, WCF has sought to connect sustainable agriculture and land use work with health, create and strengthen community engagement and multi-field collaboratives, and promote environmental and policy change.


Impact: WCF made its first foray into policy work as a result of the Innovation Fund, supporting collaborative efforts and playing a convening role in their community around changes to long-term land use planning and access to healthy food. According to the foundation, the Innovation Fund made it possible for WCF to become a proactive grantmaker which was "truly an evolutionary leap." WCF created a Healthy People/Healthy Places field of interest fund and has integrated the healthy people/healthy places language and philosophy in its decision making and partnerships with other community leaders and with new funding partners. Progress on policy change has not been as significant as hoped, due to the controversial nature of land use policy in the region, but WCF is continuing to participate and support efforts to move this work forward.


Read detailed case study of this effort.

Zilber Family Foundation, Milwaukee, WI

The Zilber Family Foundation is a private foundation dedicated to enhancing the well-being of individuals, families, and communities with a primary emphasis on supporting community-based efforts to revitalize neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee.


Innovation: The Innovation Fund at the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative supports efforts that demonstrate the benefits of aligning interests in the built environment, open space, food access, physical activity, and health and wellness that are identified as priorities by the people who live and work in two low-income neighborhoods, Lindsay Heights and Clarke Square. Zilber has funded projects that connect access to healthy foods and physical activity to one or more of the following: environmental transformation, policy reformation, and economic and workforce development.


Impact: Innovation Funds prompted Zilber to focus on environmental sustainability and equitable development in ways they otherwise would not have without these resources. Staff has developed expertise on the interrelationships among land use, equitable development, and health and wellness and have sought out and collaborated with other funders, such as the Brico Fund. Zilber is increasing their portfolio in food access and the built environment, asking different questions of partners and grantees, and sharing the Innovation Fund framework with other funders and community organizations. Their grantees have made significant policy and environmental changes for their neighborhoods, built non-traditional community partnerships, and the foundation is supporting a consultant to support all of their grantees in fundraising additional dollars for their work in a way that is collaborative instead of competitive.


Read detailed case study of this effort.