WellPoint Targets Childhood Obesity With Its Biggest Grant Ever

The WellPoint Foundation has never been known for dropping huge sums of money all at once. They make many many small grants each year—there were over 60 individual grants in 2011—but rarely break the $1 million mark per gift. They’ve been around thirteen years, and have presented a pretty consistent pattern of giving—small gifts to support community or regional health initiatives, and slightly bigger gifts to support national organizations like the March of Dimes.

That is, until now.

Two weeks ago, the WellPoint Foundation announced a $10 million gift headed toward the Boys & Girls Club of America, to support their Triple Play initiative, which has childhood obesity directly in its crosshairs. Considering the organization’s total annual giving usually punches in under $15 million for the entire year, this is big news. Surprising big news. Seeing a gift like this, you have to wonder if this signals the start of a shift towards bigger average gifts—but the answer may be evident by looking at Wellpoint’s latest annual giving totals.      

They’ve been tapering down over the past few years, from a high of $17 million donated in 2007, to 2011, where they didn’t even break the $10 million mark for the year. Maybe they’ve been saving up, so to speak—they’ve certainly been supporting the Boys & Girls Club for a long time. In 2011, they contributed $3 million to the BGCA’s Healthy Generations initiative—so it seems the momentum for a gift this big has been building.

Combine WellPoint’s past support of BGCA with the foundation’s preference for well-established, storied national organizations—Boys & Girls Club, March of Dimes, American Red Cross, YMCA—and this gift seems even less out-of-the-blue. WellPoint likes to fund initiatives that are after results—research, policy, the kind of things that lead to quantifiable change—and this program plays into that perfectly.

“This grant – the largest in the history of our foundation—is being made because we’ve seen the success of the Triple Play program first-hand and we know it’s critical to the future health of our country,” says Lance Chrisman, WellPoint Foundation executive director. “We’re proud to work with Boys & Girls Clubs of America to encourage kids to have fun while eating healthier foods, becoming more physically active and feeling better about themselves.” 

Reducing childhood obesity has been a hot cause among funders for a while now. Working in this area is even more appealing with new data showing recently that kids are slimming down, with obesity rates for young children down 43 percent in the past decade. 

Funders love getting behind an important fight wheresolutions exist and progress is being made. WellPoint's big gift is yet more evidence of that.