Tracking the Rise in Grants for Health Policy Issues

Starting in December 1997, the Foundation Center in New York conducted an analytical study on the size and nature of foundation giving for health policy-related activities in 1990 and 1995.

Key Findings

  • The investigators found that although health policy-related funding remained less than one-tenth of all foundation health spending, the amount of funding tripled between 1990 ($30.9 million) and 1995 ($99.8 million), far outpacing the growth of health funding overall.
  • The number of grants recorded for health policy in this period jumped from 222 to 460, a 107.2 percent gain.
  • A small number of foundations active in funding for health policy provided the overwhelming share of support for the field. The top 25 funders of health policy awarded 96.8 percent of the health policy grants recorded in 1995, up slightly from 94.7 percent in 1990.
  • The study also indicated that RWJF drove much of the increase in support for policy grantmaking (it awarded 44.6% of all giving in health policy in 1995, more than double its share in 1990).
  • The establishment of the California Wellness Foundation in 1991 also influenced the growth in supporting health policy. This foundation includes health policy as a central programmatic focus, and in 1995 awarded nearly $14.7 million, or more than one-seventh (14.7%) of grant dollars for health policy.
  • Like RWJF, several established funders increased their contribution to health policy funding. For example, the fourth ranked Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation's direct grant support grew from less than $200,000 in 1990 to $6.5 million in 1995.
  • The shift in responsibility for the nation's health care to the states has been mirrored by foundations' increased targeting of health policy funding to state- or local-level activities.
  • Two-fifths of health policy grant dollars in 1995 were targeted to certain population groups.