Duke Endowment: Grants for Public Health

OVERVIEW: The Duke Endowment focuses its public health-related grantmaking primarily on child care and healthcare in North and South Carolina.

IP TAKE: Duke likes to support groups that offer solutions to widespread healthcare problems, and often provides funding to support systems strengthening and capacity building.

PROFILE: The Duke Endowment was established in 1924 by James Buchanan Duke (it isn’t affiliated with Duke University or Duke Energy). In its early years, Duke selected not-for-profit hospitals in North Carolina and South Carolina to be the primary beneficiaries of the healthcare grant funds, says Mary Piepenbring, vice president and director of health for the Duke Endowment.

Times have changed since those early days, and modern healthcare systems have evolved—though not always for the better. As Piepenbring states: “Healthcare today is complex, and hospitals have evolved into comprehensive systems of the delivery of care. Our challenge today is to preserve the core values of our founder and to adapt grantmaking activities to areas that have the greatest positive impact on beneficiary organizations and the communities they serve.”

Since its inception, the Duke Endowment has focused primarily on child care and education, religious education, and healthcare—and those topics remain the focus of its grantmaking. The endowment makes many of its healthcare grants in the realms of improving access to care and “breaking barriers,” a welcome effort in a region with so many people living in rural and relatively isolated communities. It is also interested in supporting preventitive healthcare and increasing the quality and safety of current healthcare delivery.

According to Piepenbring, the endowment mainly plans to continue working with its current grantees, not bring on new ones. “Our grantees are organizations in North Carolina and South Carolina that are working to expand prevention and early intervention programs, improve the quality and safety of services and increase access to care.”

That being said, Piepenbring notes that the Duke Endowment is responding to a high number of grant requests pertaining to inpatient-outpatient transitions, and working to develop its Improving Care Transitions. “Staff is working to develop a potential new special grant program that will focus on enhancing the quality of care and reducing avoidable readmissions,” says Piepenbring. “Advantages of care transitions programs include reduction of avoidable hospital utilization, better outcomes for patients, and reduced costs.”

To learn more about the Duke Endowment’s grantees, explore its searchable grants database. Previous healthcare grants have ranged from $89,000 to $15 million in recent years.

The Duke Endowment is quite transparent and accessible, with clear guidelines for grantseekers, and has two deadlines for applications for healthcare grants: June 15 and December 15. 


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