Health legacy funders are reshaping philanthropy across the country, especially in areas off the beaten path without a lot of other funders—places where new local grantmakers can make a big difference.
One of the latest new health legacy foundations to emerge is based in Grand Junction, Colorado and just formed in its current configuration in 2017 when United Health Plans bought out Rocky Mountain Health Plans. This purchase left $38 million behind to launch the Rocky Mountain Health Foundation (RMHF), which is dedicated to the health of people living in 22 Western Slope counties.
The foundation recently awarded its first grants for 2019 totaling $468,300. These grants were shared by 30 nonprofits in the region, including the Bridge Emergency Shelter, Compañeros: Four Corners Immigrant Resource Center, KSUT, and Reaching Out to Community and Kids. The health needs in this part of Colorado are great, demonstrated by the fact that RMHF received $1.3 million in funding requests from 53 agencies.
Although it has only been in its current form as a grantmaker for two years, RMHF is no newcomer to the local philanthropy scene. It was first established as a state-wide nonprofit organization in 1997 and provided early support for dental care and tobacco smoking cessation of pregnant women. This foundation’s program had one of the highest smoking cessation successes in the nation at 89 percent, and every dollar spent on it resulted in $6.73 savings through fewer preterm baby deliveries, higher rates of healthy births, and fewer babies admitted to intensive care. Still today, this is a funder that
Like many other health legacy funders, RMHF takes a broad approach to health and wellbeing, focusing on the social determinants of health just as much as specific health issues and diseases. It regularly gives general operating and programmatic grants for basic needs, access to care, mental health, oral health, visual health, and community-based health projects. Within those health categories, these are RMHF’s four primary goals:
Support the marginalized and the socially and economically disadvantaged
Provide resources for achieving and maintaining healthy, independent lives
Maintain, nurture, and strengthen healthy minds and bodies
Offer opportunities for wellbeing and quality of life
Geographically, RMHF is interested in the following Western Colorado counties: Archuleta, Delta, Dolores, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Jackson, La Plata, Lake, Mesa, Moffat, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt, San Juan, San Miguel, and Summit.
Since inception, RMHF has awarded over $1.8 million to benefit more than 90 organizations. The next RMHF grant deadline is October 4, and the foundation expects to award a total of $900,000 in 2019.