Tuned In: What This Health Legacy Foundation is Doing for Local Nonprofits

St. Petersburg, Florida. photo: Lindsay Helms/shutterstock

St. Petersburg, Florida. photo: Lindsay Helms/shutterstock

There are now over 200 health legacy foundations across the U.S. and they are playing a growing role in local grantmaking. Many of these institutions have popped in regions that aren’t served by other major funders. And by taking an expansive view of health, they’re funding across a broad range of issue areas.

In our extensive coverage of health legacy foundations, we’ve found that they’re often quite nimble and responsive to local needs. A lot of these grantmakers are still pretty young and finding their way. That gives them more flexibility in how they operate, with not much yet set in stone.

A case in point is the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg (FHSP), a five-year-old private foundation that was formed upon the sale of the nonprofit Bayfront Health in St. Petersburg, Florida. This health legacy funder’s mission is health equity, and it has approximately $180 million in assets right now.

Last May, the foundation released the results of a countywide assessment showing that many Pinellas County nonprofits don’t have the unrestricted funds they need to improve their own organizations. Without these types of funds, local nonprofits find it harder to serve the public and fulfill their missions. In response, FHSP made a new batch of flexible funds available this summer to 21 nonprofits totaling $398,341. Understandably, though, these flexible funds have an expiration date and the foundation expects them to be used within nine months.

Capacity-building grants don’t always have the glamour of a newly launched program that’s nicely packaged. But funders like FHSP are realizing that those attractive programs will never come to fruition if the groups behind them don’t have the strong institutional foundation required to be effective. In this regard, even modest-sized unrestricted grants can make a difference, since internal fixes and upgrades often aren’t overly expensive. Extra cash can pay for that new phone system or website overhaul, or a few months of consulting help in an under-resourced area.

FHSP’s most recent grants ranged in size from $10,000 to $20,000 and went toward things like infrastructure improvements, technology upgrades, marketing, communications, nonprofit planning and communication strategies.

Beyond capacity-building grants, FHSP awards larger empowerment grants of $40,000 to $100,000 to organizations with annual operating budgets of less than $2 million and also transformative grants for cross-sector collaborations.

Although the hospital that went up for sale was in the city of St. Petersburg, FHSP’s grantmaking area is a bit broader than this, reaching south of Ulmerton Road and east of Seminole Boulevard. It’s now the largest grantmaking organization in town, with grants going to a range of groups that work within the realm of the social determinants of health and improving population health.

Recent grantees include Guardian Ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay, League of Women Voters of Florida Education Fund, Pinellas County Homeless Leadership Board, and the Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services.

FHSP’s funding interests offer a sense of how broadly health legacy funders are thinking these days when it comes to advancing their missions. This funder will consider grants in such areas as tobacco, alcohol and drug use; diet and exercise; sexual activity; education and employment; air and water quality; and more. Meanwhile, like most health legacy foundations, it also continues to fund in more traditional health areas, such as access to care.