Shifting for Impact: A Quick Look at the Philadelphia Health Partnership

 photo: Andrey_Popov/shutterstock

photo: Andrey_Popov/shutterstock

Before health legacy foundations were as common as they are today, the Pennsylvania Hospital merged with the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania in 1997 and established a fund to improve the well-being of vulnerable populations in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Initially named the First Hospital Foundation, this funder has been considering a wide range of health-related grant proposals and awarding grants often in the $20,000 to $30,000 range for the past couple decades.

The foundation suspended grantmaking in 2016 to venture into a strategic planning process. It launched a new grantmaking strategy in 2017, but then made another big change in early 2018. Earlier this year, the First Hospital Foundation changed its name to Philadelphia Health Partnership, with the tagline “a foundation for healthy communities.”

In its previous incarnation, we observed that this funder would consider pretty much any type of local health proposal sent its way. But with its new identity, grantmaking has become a bit more narrow and focused. Philadelphia Health Partnership (PHP) is now primarily backing access to quality care and services that advance health equity. Like so many other health funders right now, PHP is looking to address underlying social inequities as they relate to health. At least through the year 2023, PHP plans to target immigrants, refugees, as well as young children under the age of five and their families.

Another philanthropy trend that PHP has recently embraced is boosting its capacity-building support for local nonprofits. “Philadelphia Health Partnership views its role as not only supporting programs, but also investing in the capacity of nonprofits to improve communication and collaboration—across professional boundaries and between practitioners and community members,” said PHP Executive Director Ann Marie Healy.

And with greater capacity building support comes a greater partnership mindset that involves more collaboration and collective action than in past. With its new name and strategy, PHP is looking to work alongside more local funders, as well as across other sectors to get more involved in policy and systems change. As the name suggests, partnership is a huge part of this funder’s latest shift, which we expect to be evident in the upcoming rounds of grants.

“PHP’s potential to move the dial on the issues it cares about requires working with policymakers and other resource brokers to make a difference,” said the foundation’s board chair, Estelle B. Richman.

These days, PHP is awarding grants on a rolling basis to programs that align with its redefined mission. But at least for now, the funder does not provide a clear way to apply for a grant or submit an initial letter of inquiry. Perhaps this will change in the near future as the foundation settles into its new role, but in the meantime, check out the funder’s news section to see what the staff is talking about, such as the 2020 census, health equity, anti-eviction efforts, and children and families seeking refuge in the U.S.