California Wellness Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) funds grants in a variety of health-related fields and limits its giving to the state of California. 

FUNDING AREAS: Diversity in health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, and violence prevention

IP TAKE: CWF awards almost all its annual funds to California health organizations, but you'll still encounter a lot of competition. Carefully decide which of the foundation's eight focus areas your program fits into best.

PROFILE: As you might suspect, the mission of the California Wellness Foundation is to improve the health of California residents through access, education, and prevention. Since 1992, the private foundation has been awarding grants in eight focus areas: diversity in the health professions, environmental health, healthy aging, mental health, teenage pregnancy prevention, violence prevention, women's health, and work health. Since its founding, it has awarded over 8,265 grants totaling more than $950 million. All this charity money became a reality when HealthNet converted from a nonprofit to a for-profit corporation. A merger with parent company QualMed helped to boost the foundation's assets a few years later.

The California Wellness Foundation has a large board of directors and an even larger staff. If you've ever wondered how a well-oiled philanthropy machine runs, then stop by the CWF headquarters office in Woodland Hills or the branch office in San Francisco. San Francisco is a large focus area for CWF, but Los Angeles and rural California towns also compete for health project grant funds.

Past foundation grants made in the Bay Area include the following: 

  • $250,000 to the Tides Center/Californians for Safety & Justice in Oakland
  • $300,000 to Huckleberry Youth Programs in San Francisco 
  • $426,000 to North Bay Health Resources Center in Petaluma 
  • $100,000 to Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice

A list of more current grantees can be found on the funder's grants database.

    The Foundation has been outspoken about providing public health insurance programs in California as well. After a UCLA Center of Health Policy Research study was released about health insurance coverage in California, CWF pointed out that residents are still struggling with the recession so low-cost and no-cost coverage is still important and valuable.

    More often than not, CWF awards grants for general operating support over special projects. More than 300 grants are awarded to California health organizations each year, and most grants fall between $35,000 and $500,000. CWF usually awards a couple of grants to individuals each year, which is rare in the world of philanthropic foundations.

    Unlike some foundations in the Bay Area, CWF makes the application process easy and accessible. Head over to the foundation's How to Apply page to start a new LOI. This is where you create an account and apply to one of the three main grantmaking portfolios or the opportunity fund.

    No matter which of the focus areas you inquire about, however, you're going to face a lot of competition. Not only are other health nonprofits considered as grantees, but government agencies are thrown into the mix as well.

    If you have any questions about the foundation's grant program, give the offices a call at 818-702-1900 or 415-908-3000. There are quite a few new faces at the foundation so you may be dealing with a different staff member than in the past. You can also complete a grant inquiry question form directly on the CWF website.

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