Care Transformation Center Blog

Here's what non-provider population health donors wish you knew

by Darby Sullivan and Tomi Ogundimu

It's a difficult reality—much of population health department funding relies on external, private donors. Since the most obvious returns for investing in non-traditional, community-based interventions (e.g., housing) do not impact an organization's bottom line revenue, population health leaders must become savvy in using grants to ensure financial longevity. But for some organizations, creating an external funding strategy is still a guessing game and relies mostly on funding from government and other grants.

An increasing number of non-provider companies are looking to partner with public health-focused organizations to improve community health. If positioned correctly, providers can capitalize on these private grants to diversify foundational funds and build out community-based population health initiatives. We sat down with Alex Derkson, JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s VP of Global Philanthropy, to learn what funders are looking for when selecting investments. 

Question: What advice would you give provider organizations looking to obtain external grants to invest in the social determinants of health?

Alex Derkson: We're looking for provider organizations that are likely to be successful in their efforts. Usually, community health programs with great outcomes are launched with a well-articulated, long-term, and data-driven system-wide strategy—our role should focus on supporting just one component of the strategy. We have to see exactly how organizations are planning to track outcomes on a really specific level in order to measure our impact.

Q: What makes a potential provider grantee stand out?

Derkson: Often, you know it when you see it. You can tell when a group of organizations has really thought through the ins and outs of what partnership entails. The neighborhood conditions, the timing, and the execution strategies all have to be right to make a significant impact.

Q: What should provider organizations already have prepared when coming to the table?

Derkson: We need to hear detailed information about at least three components of potential programming: additional funders, community partners, and the wider community context.

Our grantees need to be able to show exactly how they're planning to get the remaining funding for their program. For high-investment programs like housing development, we won't be the only funders, so we have to feel confident that our grantees will attain the remaining funds to actually get the program off the ground.

The proposed program should very clearly fit into an existing community revitalization strategy. Programs should meet an existing need, but they will be more effective if they function in tandem with ongoing growth strategies.

Lastly, we need to have a good understanding of the community partners providers are planning to work with. They have to exhibit clear experience and expertise in the field, since these efforts are overwhelmingly collaborative and partner quality can dictate the success of failure of an initiative.

Next, learn how to build the business case for community partnership

To be successful, population health programs must invest heavily in partnerships with local organizations and health departments.

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