How One Oklahoma Funder Balances Direct Service with Prevention

Winter is a time of year when we all start thinking more about kicking in for direct services—feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, and making sure children and the elderly are staying warm. But as David Callahan asks in "Stuck in the Soup Kitchen: The Dilemma of Giving for Direct Services," “Why does Band-Aid philanthropy trump efforts to prevent people from being poor or hungry or homeless to begin with?”

I’m not going to pretend to have the answer to this question, but I definitely see the need for balance between direct service funding and poverty prevention funding.

Late last year, as the weather started to get colder, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation awarded $201,110 in grants for direct services in central Oklahoma. These grants were awarded through OCCF’s Access to Health Care iFund program, which increases access for underserved individuals and families in the area.

Related: Read IP’s Profile of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation

The largest direct services grants were recently awarded to the Community Health Centers’ Mary Mahoney Memorial Health Center, the Hearts for Hearing Foundation, and the Neighborhood Services Organization. The Center for Children and Families, Inc., Health Alliance for the Uninsured, Fundacion Manos Juntas, and Limbs for Life Foundation also received direct service grants in this cycle. All grants ranged from $9,000 to $40,000.

Through this iFund Program, OCCF has awarded $1.4 million via more than 80 grants to community organizations. iFund grants are also awarded to organizations that provide direct services for children from birth to age 14, and which focus on safety for elderly and help them to remain living independently in their own homes.

However, this foundation works with donors to serve central Oklahoma both now and in the future. Launched in 2014, OCCF’s Wellness Initiative promotes physical activity, good nutrition, and healthy lifestyles in a general sense. Both children and adults are the focus of this grantmaking program. This initiative focuses on daily numbers to live by: five or more fruits and vegetables, two hours or fewer of screen time, one hour of physical activity, and zero sugar-sweetened beverages.

So while these Wellness Initiative grants are made for new and existing direct service programs, they have a forward-thinking prevention aspect as well.  It’s rare balance that’s only sometimes seen in the foundation world.

OCCF last reported $810 million in total assets and over 1,300 funds under management. The foundation made $29 million in contributions in 2013 and $31 million in 2014.