Aetna Foundation: Grants for Disease

OVERVIEW: The Aetna Foundation gives primarily to health-related causes, and the area of diseases is well-funded. The foundation uses its money to fight obesity--especially among children-- and a host of other diseases. It is especially focused on improving the health of minority groups, particularly African Americans, although Asian American and Latino causes also have received funding in the past.

IP TAKE: Aetna gives big to certain big organizations, but there's plenty left over for the little guys as well. If your community-based initiative focuses on one disease or a small set of diseases, or your nationwide program touches on policy or research, you're eligible for a grant between $25,000 and $150,000.

PROFILE: A big chunk of Aetna's yearly funding goes to two groups: the American Heart Association, which eats up about $300,000 every year, and the regional offices of the American Lung Association. Together these two groups received a full 25% of Aetna's funding over the past decade. The rest of this analysis will exclude the funding for these groups so as to be more useful for others.

There's a big pot of money left over — $3.5 million over the past decade — and most of it comes in grant amounts between $10,000 and $50,000. Many of these smaller grants went to sponsor events like races, balls, or galas.

Unlike many foundations, Aetna is more than willing to support your event, having given to such causes over the past decade. While it has a few favorite organizations, many of Aetna's gifts do not go to the same organizations over multiple years. More than half of its grantees have received funding only once, giving new organizations a decent chance at receiving a gift.

Although the Foundation has a broad range of diseases it focuses on, it has given to specific causes year after year: kidney, heart, and lung disease. Even outside of the American Heart and American Lung Associations, Aetna gives to causes that support health in these areas.

Even more consistent is the foundation's focus on two population groups, the first of which is children. Aetna puts a big emphasis on giving to organizations that support kids' health, specifically with regard to obesity. It has given to a children's nutrition expo, a public broadcasting documentary on obesity, and a camp for kids struggling with their weight. Aetna also gives plenty to support programs in schools and communities to help address child obesity.

The other focus is on the health of minority groups — usually African Americans, but also Asian Americans and Latinos. Aetna has given to initiatives targeting these groups and the diseases that disproportionately affect them, such as heart disease for African Americans and colorectal cancer for Asian Americans. These initiatives include an explicit component for low-income populations.

Aetna does not have any geographical focus, and you'll find 22 states represented among its grantees. However, certain states emerge as consistent sites for Aetna funding: California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Pennsylvania all received at least five Aetna grants over the past decade.

For the purposes of grant applications, Aetna makes a distinction between national and regional grants — with the former more focused on research and policy and the latter more community-based. Regional grants range from $25,000 to $40,000, and unsolicited applications are accepted. National grants are between $50,000 and $150,000, but Aetna does not accept unsolicited proposals for these grants.