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Funding Your Healthcare Project: The Importance of a Thorough Search

Aug 1

Written by: Grants Office, LLC
Thursday, August 1, 2019  RssIcon

By Chris LaPage

Where do I find grants to fund my healthcare project? This is, without a doubt, the question that I am asked more frequently than any other in my work as a grant funding consultant. And I always begin my answer the same way, “Everywhere!” Traditionally, government grantmaking agencies have only focused supporting projects directly within their strictly defined functional area. The ever-expanding field of healthcare, however, has forced many of these agencies to go beyond the confines of such thinking. Thus, the biggest mistake that novice grantseekers can make is limiting their funder prospecting research to only those federal or state authorities primarily responsible for healthcare regulations. To help you make sure that no stone is left unturned the next time you go grant-seeking, following the three primary sources for healthcare grants (federal, state and foundation funders) are explored.

Federal Healthcare Funding

The federal government awards more than $500 billion in grants each year. There is more money available at the federal level for health and human service projects than any other category of funding. Of the 26 federal grantmaking agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the most obvious and the largest funder of healthcare-oriented projects. In 2019, HHS received $90.5 billion in discretionary funding, a $2.3 billion increase over 2018 funding levels. HHS releases grant programs that fund telemedicine services in rural and underserved areas, opioid treatment, prevention and recovery, health professional education, and research. HHS has grant programs that target age groups across the lifespan, from mothers and infants to the elderly and disabled. You search should start grant funding research with HHS and the various sub-agencies underneath their umbrella, including:

·         Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) – HRSA aims to improve health outcomes and address health disparities through access to quality services, a skilled health workforce, and innovative, high-value programs. Healthcare projects that serve rural and underserved areas, uninsured and underinsured patients, HIV/AIDS populations, or focus on maternal and child health or health professional education are particularly of interest.

·         Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – SAMHSA grants target public health efforts in order to advance the behavioral health of the nation and to improve the lives of individuals living with mental and substance use disorders, and their families. They administer funds for mental health services as well as substance abuse, prevention, treatment and recovery initiatives. Projects centered on the opioid epidemic have been especially high priority.

·         Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – The CDC serves as the primary public health agency, developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion and health education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the United States. They administer grant programs that target public health preparedness as well as disease surveillance and monitoring.

Beyond the HHS, there is still potential to access additional funding for healthcare projects. There are a handful of other federal agencies that have taken an interest in supporting healthcare initiatives, especially as healthcare practice has expanded into a more wholistic, cross-sector response strategy. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has programs that aim to improve health services exclusively in rural areas, such as the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Program, while the Department of Justice releases grants that support wraparound health services for individuals upon reentry into the community after incarceration. The Department of Labor occasionally offers workforce development and training grants that can be leveraged by healthcare entities for health professional education and training. The Department of Education has even hopped on the bandwagon, releasing solicitations earlier this year that focused on the mental health of students in the context of safe and healthy schools. In essence, to ensure that your organization capitalizes on al potentially relevant grant funding for its healthcare projects, a thorough search should include not just HHS but also several of the other 25 federal grantmaking agencies.

Healthcare Funding from your State

Each of the federal grantmaking agencies typically has a counterpart at the state level. The amount and type of grant funding available varies greatly, though, as each state has their own priorities and appropriations process. While state grantmakers tend to offer smaller awards (on average) than their federal counterparts, they usually have less complicated application procedures and make quicker decisions on awards. In some instances, the state may be passing through funds made available to them from the federal government, while other grant programs originate from within their state appropriations and budget process. Unlike with federal grants, the geographic scope of the grant funded project is typically limited to the state or territory making the funds available. States are an excellent source of grants for projects that have a significant and clear local impact that addresses priority problems specifically within the state.

In some cases, your project may not align with federal priorities, but you may find such an emphasis in existing grant programming at the state level. For instance, projects that impact economic development for the region tend to be a priority for many states. To that end, state agencies that oversee business functions or economic development could be a potential funder for certain health sector projects. While healthcare entities may be reluctant to think of themselves as economic drivers, in many cases they are the largest and most stable employer in a given region. Healthcare organizations should leverage their ability to make an impact on jobs for a community and capitalize on these economic development grants. Even if there is not a large job growth component to the project, healthcare projects have a latent impact on the regional economy: a healthy workforce is a critical ingredient to economic and community development.

Foundation Funding for Healthcare

Foundation grants are an excellent source of funds for projects that have significant impact at the local and regional level. Between corporate, community, and private family foundations, more than $5 billion is granted each year by foundations for healthcare projects. Foundations are an excellent source of funding for projects that do not fit squarely within federal or state priorities or funding requirements. For instance, state and federal grant programs usually do not provide funding for institutionalized care, ambulatory, outpatient and home-based services. However, many foundations that focus on the elderly and disabled will fund projects in these areas because of their population-based priorities. These foundations include those with a national focus and give across the country, regional organizations that give in several target states, and local grantmakers that may limit their eligibility to a specific state, county, or municipality. In contrast to federal and state-grantmakers, foundations are best known for their quick decision-making when evaluating grant proposals.

The one slight drawback of foundation funding (specifically for local or regional foundations), however, is that relationship building may be required prior to submission of your grant proposal. Unlike state or federal funders who use a “blind, cattle call” approach, many foundations prefer to get to know their awardees personally before making a decision. That said, once you’ve established a relationship with the funder, they might be more willing to become a long-term partner for supporting your future projects! Especially if the foundation operates in your specific community and targets their support specifically for projects in your town, city, or village. When pursing foundation grantmakers, don’t forget: while you start looking start locally, it is important to also search out funders beyond the walls of your own community. There may be a large, regional foundation that may funds in multiple states (including yours!) that you’re unaware of and have been missing. There are foundations that support projects in key geographic areas, such as the Great Lakes, Appalachia, the Delta Region, the Rocky Mountains and ­­­­­more.  

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