Episcopal Health Foundation: Texas Grants

OVERVIEW: Established in 2013, the Episcopal Health Foundation focuses grantmaking on 57 counties in Southeast Texas and funds a variety of local health care and mental health causes. Starting off, grants averaged about $100,000 each, but grantmaking has been expanding every year.

FUNDING AREAS: Preventative and primary care, mental health, children’s health, early childhood development, health inequities

IP TAKE: Mental health and access to health care in rural areas are big priorities for this Southeast Texas funder. The foundation is refreshingly accessible, transparent, and really into community conversations that address local needs.

PROFILE: With roots in health care and the Christian faith, the Episcopal Health Foundation awards grants within the 57 counties of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, which is in the southeastern portion of the state. Although EHF is new on the southwest grantmaking scene, it is growing fast and making a big impact already. EHF was established in 2013 upon the transfer of St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to Catholic Health Initiatives. Its mission is to "improve the health and well-being of the 10 million people in the 57 counties of the Diocese by investing in communities through grant-making, outreach to Diocesan churches and critical research to advance community health."

There are seven core strategies behind EHF grantmaking: preventative and primary care, mental health, access to health care, early childhood development, capacity building, healthy planning, and collective impact. EHF’s VP of grantmaking, Jo Carcedo, provided the following response when we asked about the theory of change behind foundation grantmaking:

EHF has spent many months developing our theory of change: Healthy communities are created when diverse people join together to build community-driven, people-centered, health-oriented systems. EHF seeks opportunities to work with organizations that actively engage their beneficiaries or other stakeholders in the development of their work. We also seek opportunities to build connection within communities, including among service providers, planners, and community groups, so that their efforts reinforce each other and reflect local needs. In fact, we are investing not only through funding, but also by working directly with community partners to help build local capacity and engagement to support community connection. We believe that such engagement increases the chances to create and sustain lasting change. 

In a recent year, the foundation committed to awarding approximately $17 million in competitive grants. This is a huge increase because the previous year's commitment was just $9 million in grants. Recent years have been all about building relationships with organizations in the area, knowing that budget expansions will broaden this impact in the very near future.  

During its first full year of grantmaking, EHF awarded Seminary of the Southwest $3 million to increase access to mental health care in 12 East Texas counties and Nurse-Family Partnership $98,642 to match low-income first-time mothers with nurses to support them during and after pregnancy. These are just two of many local early grantees.

The foundation also funded a study with Rice University’s Baker Institute about gaps in the American health care system. The Texas Health Reform Monitoring Survey revealed that large numbers of uninsured people in Texas are neglecting primary health care. A study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation uncovered that about one-third of the counties in the diocese are in the lowest quartile for health. A majority of these counties also reported infant mortality rates more than double the state average.

Although this is a health-specific funder, there are some aspects of health care that EHF does not fund. These include acute care, inpatient care, long-term care institutions, biomedical research, parks and playgrounds, disease-specific conditions, and research and advocacy work. The foundation also does not provide funding for child care, early education, or after-school programs for routine service provision. For eligible grantees, EHF provides general operating grants, project/program grants, and capacity building grants, as well as small grants of up to $10,000 for short-term immediate needs. The average EHF grant has been about $100,000.

In the past, EHF has hosted grant workshops in Lufkin, Austin, and Houston to guide potential grantseekers through the application process. Applications are accepted online and there are no application deadlines. It usually takes between four and six months to hear back EHF with a funding decision. Although this grantmaker exists as a supporting organization of a Episcopal diocese, nonprofits do not need to be affiliated with any church or faith to be considered for funding.

The foundation is led by President and CEO Elena Marks, who stepped into the role in January 2014. A few months later, EHF purchased a four-story 1932 Art Deco building at 500 Fannin in downtown Houston for its offices. Marks, a lawyer by training and former director of health and environmental policy for Houston, said the following in a Houston Chronicle interview:

We're going to do our best at every stage. We're going to be working with grantees all over these 57 counties, hopefully, in some very different ways. I think of them as partners with us as opposed to we tell them what to do. They have the know-how and the infrastructure, whatever the services, health or otherwise. We have the money to make that happen. I think by working with them we hope over time we will be more aligned and more strategic. We really want to look for transformation. We want to move away from symptoms and toward root causes.

It’s important to understand that although this foundation is in the early stages of development, it’s deeply committed to community-identified solutions to solve critical problems. This collaborative model draws in the expertise of grantees, congregations, and community leaders to identify changing local and needs and direct foundation investments accordingly.

Grantseeker questions can be directed to the program officers at grants@episcopalhealth.org.


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