The California Endowment: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: Since the California Endowment was established out of a health insurance company merger, it makes sense that the foundation focuses its attention exclusively on making California communities healthier. Foundation grants most often go toward programs that keep children safe and active and programs that support health-care reform.

IP TAKE: You don't have to hold your opinions back with the California Endowment. This foundation doesn't shy away from political controversy and welcomes innovative approaches that shake things up. Childhood obesity and Obamacare are hot-button issues at the Endowment these days. And the Endowment is  investing $1 billion in 14 communities in California to improve community health through its 10-year Building Healthy Communities plan, which will continue through 2019.

PROFILE: More than two decades ago, the California Endowment was created out of Blue Cross Blue Shield of California and WellPoint Health Networks. The endowment is a private, statewide foundation that focuses on encouraging good health and the provision of and access to quality health care for all Californians. The endowment is huge, with more than $3.6 billion in assets. Grantmaking yearly totals have been over $182 million in recent years.

The California Endowment awards grants out of the Innovative Ideas Challenge of its Building Healthy Communities strategy. This challenge is simple: It aims to take some of the unhealthiest communities in California and turn them around to be healthy and vibrant areas. The endowment currently has 14 communities that are striving to be healthier, happier places to live. These communities include Boyle Heights, Central Santa Ana, Central/SE/SW Fresno, City Heights, Del Norte County and adjacent tribal lands, East Oakland, East Salinas, Eastern Coachella Valley, Long Beach, Sacramento, South Kern, South Los Angeles, East/SW Merced, and Richmond.

A big aspect of the Endowment's grantmaking, and one that it repeats often, is its support of healthy innovations that are disruptive. This means the foundation looks for products and services that not only are cost effective and affordable but also will disrupt the marketplace in a positive way and be the driving force behind healthy changes. It also means the endowment does not really want to see replications and does not tend to fund any scaling-up projects.

The Endowment awards general operating support, project grants, program support grants, and direct charitable activities contracts. But at this time, The California Endowment does not accept unsolicited letters of intent or proposals. Grants are by invitation only. This is a drastic change from past years.

Here's a quick look at a sampling of the foundation's past grants:

  • $3.3 million to USC's Health Journalism and Fellowships Program, which focuses on researching the social determinants of health
  • $1 million to the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine to support its work in infrastructure improvements to increase access to quality health care
  • $650,000 to the American Heart Association for the establishment of the Teaching Gardens of Community Health

The foundation doesn't have a problem with getting political and regularly supports controversial court cases and grassroots campaigns. The prevention grant category has focused on the Affordable Healthcare Act, encouraging enrollment of individuals and small businesses. Make sure your neighborhood-based program keeps junk food out of reach, gets kids outside and active, and makes the streets safer. Education proposals should feature healthy food options, fresh drinking water, daily exercise, and common-sense discipline. You should also look into the California Endowment's Program-Related Investments initiative, which finances things like property acquisition, construction projects, equipment purchases, and working capital.

    You can sign up for email alerts to stay tuned to recent happenings at the foundation and direct any general inquiries to the staff at 800-449-4149.


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