A Grassroots Funding Model that Created a Public Health Foundation Operating within a Public Health Agency

State: OH Type: Model Practice Year: 2004

Greene County Combined Health District (GCCHD) operates in southwestern Ohio and serves 147,866 residents that represent a combination of rural, urban and suburban communities. Residents live in four cities, six villages, and 12 townships. Greene County has been designated as both a medically underserved population (MUP) and a health professional shortage area (HPSA). A community health assessment conducted in 2001 indicated that over 56% of the population lacked adequate health insurance and have great medical needs and this population continued to increase each year. In 1991, GCCHD created the Greene Community Health Foundation and its mission was to: 1) Help assist underserved GCCHD clients with funding for medical need; 2) Find avenues of funding for clients; 3) Develop partnerships with providers for reduced charges for clients; 4) Develop community partnerships to strengthen programs and projects at GCCHD; and 5) Develop state and national partnerships to strengthen the programs and projects at GCCHD. Since 1991, the Development Division at GCCHD has been managing and overseeing the operations of the foundation. In 2003, the foundation raised over $70,000 in cash and over $85,000 in in-kind gift contributions, in addition to forming hundreds of invaluable community partnerships and a never-ending supply of dedicated volunteers. The 2003 donor base reflected 697 annual donors and 72 were new donors. The foundation currently organizes six annual community fundraisers and 11 programs that provide services to over 6,000 clients annually.
GCCHD is funded primarily through the following sources: 1) county tax dollars; 2) Fees generated for client services; and 3) Grants from federal, state and county governments and private foundations. These funds are closely regulated by GCCHD with regard to the way in which they are disbursed. Unfortunately, for many years, there were no funds available to help people who lacked the financial means to get the required medical attention that they needed. To address the significant needs of the underserved clients (especially those that cannot be paid for with Health District funds), GCCHD incorporated their own private fundraising arm. In 1991, the Greene Community Health Foundation was established. GCCHD’s approach to solving the unmet needs of the underserved clients is rather unique. Through a “Grassroots Fundraising” approach GCCHD has been able to create a foundation that can assist the underserved population with unmet needs that the current public health system has no operating funds to do so. Donors, community partnerships, state and national supporters, and hundreds of volunteers support all funds that are raised for the foundation. Currently, there are six annual fundraisers, four programs, and seven projects that are implemented and managed by the Greene Community Health Foundation.
Agency Community RolesGCCHD is truly unique as it has the support of the local community in many areas. GCCHD’s Development Division (two staff members) oversees all operations of the foundation. There are numerous community and agency partnerships that assist the foundation. These include the 12 members of the Greene County Board of Health, the Greene Community Health Foundation Trustees, eight Community Volunteer Auxiliaries, 25 local businesses, officials at the five area universities, local physicians and dentists, and the hospital administration. The GCCHD staff is always willing to add assistance with any event, program or project. The community stakeholders continue to be involved with the planning and implementation of the numerous projects and programs at GCCHD including its six annual fundraisers. GCCHD has a very positive relationship with the local community, many partnerships and donors. This relationship is nurtured and treasured. Without these many individuals, GCCHD could not operate a successful foundation. GCCHD appreciates their supporters and fosters collaboration in several ways: 1) Annually, each donor is listed in GCCHD’s Annual Report which is distributed in March to over 60,000 people; 2) Supporters are recognized at a supporter/volunteer banquet which is held each May; 3) They are also recognized through media exposure; 4) The community and donors know where all the funds are spent; 5) Solicitations are always made verbally instead of via U.S. mail; and 6) Most importantly, supporters are solicited only once a year for support.  Costs and ExpendituresGCCHD created the Development Division to be responsible for securing funding and managing the marketing efforts for the Health District.The Development Division has two staff with the following responsibilities: 1) Research opportunities for grant dollars, coordinate GCCHD’s grant writing activities and write grants for funding of the Health Districts programs; 2) Manage the operations of the foundation through the implementation and organization of all fundraising events, development of local, county, state, and national partnerships; and development and coordination of all GCCHD volunteers;3) Market all GCCHD’s programs and the foundation to the public; 4) Develop and produce all GCCHD’s printed educational materials; and 5) Serve as the Public Information Officers for the organization.The 2004 Budget for the Development Division is $120,000 and is funded from the Health District’s operating funds. In 2003, the foundation raised over $155,000 in cash and in-kind gift donations. All funds raised for the foundation are used for unmet needs for clients.  ImplementationGCCHD responded to the additional client needs by creating a fundraising arm by establishing Greene Community Health Foundation. The foundation operates under two sets of guidelines: Articles of Incorporation of the Greene Community Health Foundation, Inc. and The Greene Community Health Foundation Policies on Charitable and Philanthropic Gifts. Each fundraiser and project that are supported by community partners, volunteers, donors, and national and state supporters have a plan of action with specific goals, objectives and evaluation tools. These tasks include, however, are not limited to recruiting meetings; planning committee meetings; development of a program plan with goals, objectives, budget and evaluation; development of a marketing plan; solicitation of support; community and public informational presentations; meetings with local media outlets; and meetings with local and state elected officials.
The only way to ensure that effectiveness of fundraisers, projects and programs sponsored and implemented by GCCHD and the foundation is to evaluate each of them. Annual evaluations are conducted after each event is completed or for projects and programs at the end of the calendar year. The evaluation of either a fundraiser, project or program would follow the same guidelines and consist of the following questions: 1) Were the goals met; 2) Was it on budget; 3) Were the marketing efforts and media effective; 4) Were the donors informed of the results; 5) Were the donors thanked; 6) What went well; and 7) What changes need to be made. The overall evaluation of the effectiveness of having a foundation in a public health entity has been measured by yearly comparison of money raised, clients served, program and project growth, donor growth, growth of volunteer base, growth of local community support, effective fundraisers, expenses, and effective media coverage. The 2003 evaluation of the Greene Community Health Foundation reported: 1) An increase in funding over 15% from 2002; 2) A 10% increase in donors; 3) More clients served in 2003 representing the distribution of over $35,000 being used for unmet needs; 4) A 35% increase in in-kind gift donations; 5) 5% increase in annual fundraiser profits; 6) An increased media coverage; 7) A 5% decrease in expenses resulting in larger in-kind gift donations to offset expenses; 8) Six new community partnerships formed; 9) A new volunteer group formed; and 10) Two new community projects developed. GCCHD and the Greene Community Health Foundation are successes in the Greene County Community. The foundation had grown substantially since 1991 and continues to grow; consequently, the foundation is able to assist underserved GCCHD clients with funding for medical needs.
SustainabilityThe Greene Community Health Foundation and GCCHD have a solid base of support within the local, state and national community. The annual budget attests to the level of federal, state, local and private grants that are funded and also to the general donor base that increases on an annual basis of 15%. Currently, there are over 697 donors and 94% are repeat donors. The stakeholders are well aware that annual and quarterly meetings occur where the Board of Health Members and the Foundation Trustees play an invaluable role in assessing and evaluating all foundation fundraisers, projects and programs. The Greene Community Health Foundation has been in operation since 1991 and each year it raises more money. The donor base continues to grow at an annual basis of 15% and the retention level of donors is very high, currently representing 94% of donors. The Development Division values its donors and follows a plan of communication that keeps all donors informed, involved and appreciated. The annual program plan for the foundation projects a 10% increase in funding and donors. Lessons LearnedStarting a foundation for a public health entity can have many challenges such as the process of incorporating a foundation; rules and regulations regarding the process; record keeping of donations; creation of events, projects or program to sustain the income of the foundation; recruitment of qualified foundation board members; development of data base to support the foundation’s records; and development of community partnerships. These challenges can all be addressed through access to numerous resources. There are many resources that can be assessed without spending any funds. These resources include asking area foundations for help when developing a new foundation; relying on staff to bring expertise to the project or soliciting community expertise; working with staff to determine needs and developing events, projects or programs; developing a clear plan of action for each event, program or project that includes goals, budget, timeline and evaluation; attending community meetings to build relationships; recruiting people who understand and believe in the organization’s mission; and developing a positive relationship with local media. Ten simple lessons to keep in mind are 1) People and communities support organizations that they believe in; 2) Remember to share the organization’s mission with the public; 3) Never be afraid to say “I need help” because more often than not, help is given; 4) Let donors know what their donation is supporting; 5) Respect the donor and solicit only once a year; 6) Make sure that the event, program or project is of interest to the donor and the community; 7) Always contact the media; 8) Always send news releases; 9) Incorporate all donors into an annual report for recognition; and 10) Always thank your donors more than once.  Key Elements ReplicationPublic health organizations can create and fund their own “private foundations” with a lot of creativity, community partners, minimal expenses and a few staff members.