Comer Family Foundation: Grants for Public Health

OVERVIEW: The Comer Family Foundation focuses its public health grantmaking on syringe exchanges, health matters related to injection drug use, and harm reduction.

IP TAKE: Comer awards grants to small and large outfits alike. Though it may give a bit of funding preference to organizations in its hometown of Chicago, it awards grants to groups in all 50 states.

PROFILE: The Comer Family Foundation was established in 1986 by the founder of Lands’ End clothing company, Gary Comer. One of Comer's iniatives backs home medical care models in an effort to improve the health of Medicaid recipients, but this grantmaking is limited to the Chicagoland area. Nationwide, Comer’s public health-related grantmaking aims to halt the spread of HIV and other diseases afflicting injection drug users.

Since 1992, the Comer Foundation has operated its Syringe Exchange Program, focusing on “harm reduction-centered syringe exchange as a means of controlling transmission of HIV and other blood-borne diseases.” The foundation awards grants to organizations that provide syringe exchanges, address health matters related to drug use, and outfits “grounded in harm reduction principle and practice.”

Grants are awarded to groups operating in all 50 states with funding available for general operating support, program development, and staff development. Awards are made for one year and typically range from $5,000 to $30,000. Comer appears to award grants to both large national organizations as well as local and grassroots groups. To learn more about the foundation’s current grantees, visit its Awardees page.

The Comer Family Foundation accepts unsolicited grant applications for its Syringe Exchange program. Application deadlines fall on May 1 and November 1 each year. Organizations with successful applications submitted by the May 1 deadline should receive funding by July and those submitted in November should expect to receive funding in January.


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