Introducing Health Forward’s new funding approach


We have spent the last year implementing the foundation of our new purpose plan and sunsetting our previous funding areas — Healthy Communities, Mental Health, Safety Net, and applicant defined grants. We’ve also been designing a new funding approach to change systems that impact health and support services that build healthy people, community power, and equitable and just places.

Our purpose: Every day we work to support and build inclusive, powerful, and healthy communities characterized by racial equity and economically just systems.

We aim to expand our partnerships led by and serving people of color and nonprofits serving our rural communities. These groups represent our prioritized communities of focus
We are also furthering our commitment to learning and centering voices closest to problems and solutions. We are building authentic relationships grounded in listening. And we are doing the necessary work to understand and share our power. 

We know it is essential to include diverse perspectives and experiences when building inclusive, powerful, and healthy communities. We also know we must remain flexible. Our funding approach will continue to evolve as we do. It’s unlikely we will keep the same funding approach that’s outlined here for all five years of our purpose plan. Leaving room for flexibility means we always have the chance to be a better funder and better community partner.

Ultimately, we seek to be transparent while living our core values of trust, partnership, learning, equity, inclusion, antiracism, and stewardship.

Our approach

Moving forward, we will streamline our application process and increase our multi-year, unrestricted funding — funding that our partners can use however they see fit. We will offer support beyond the check and center relationships, conversations, and the personal experiences of the communities we serve. 

We will support our partners through open and invitation-based funding opportunities (both one- and multi-year), while also supporting emerging opportunities through responsive grants. This approach enables us to both provide long-term support to core partners, support community developed promising practices, and systems change work that advances our purpose. It also allows us to nimbly respond to what our communities of focus prioritize.

The specific process for each individual funding opportunity will be shared in 2023 through our website and email communications.

Open funding opportunities
At different times throughout the year, we will offer open funding opportunities. We’ll set funding criteria, release a call for applications, and organizations can choose to apply. These opportunities will be instrumental in achieving specific outcomes within our purpose areas.

Invitation-based funding opportunities
Some of our funding opportunities will be by invitation. This is a different approach than we’ve taken in the past. Philanthropy has a poor track record of addressing racial bias, both conscious and unconscious, that has crept into funding processes. And philanthropy has historically made it difficult for some nonprofits serving our communities of focus to access funding. We want to be different. To ensure our funding is equitable, we will invite organizations whose body of work is vital in achieving the intended impact of our purpose plan. 

Invitation-based funding opportunities also allow us to streamline our process and reduce application burden.

Responsive funding opportunities
Health Forward is always open to learning about community work that aligns with our purpose. Responsive dollars will be available throughout the year to support opportunities that come to us from the community. Potential partners may submit relevant information about their work and need via our website by spring of 2023. Health Forward will identify an impact strategist (formerly program officer) to follow up for a discussion and possible one-year funding. 

Our work in 2023

We are excited about our work in 2023 which centers our prioritized communities of focus.

Explore our People theory of change

We believe the best way to care for people is to consider their whole selves, which includes their physical, oral, mental, and social needs.

In 2023, we will provide invitation-based funding to organizations that collectively provide whole-person care across the community health system from prevention to treatment to recovery and advocacy. We will notify organizations that have been selected to receive this funding by April 2023. These grants will be awarded at different times throughout the year and could provide one or multiple years of unrestricted core operating support.

We will also continue to fund the Kansas City Health Equity Learning and Action Network to support participating organizations’ action and learning that advances antiracism, equity, community, and humanity into our regional health ecosystem.

While we don’t expect any open funding opportunities in 2023, we will consider responsive and invitation-based funding that supports work around community health workers, testing a “food as medicine” model, and promoting the standardization, collection, disaggregation and use of race, ethnicity, and language data to measure and improve outcomes.

We will also partner with a national research institution to examine our regional health sciences workforce pipeline to understand how we can increase representation among people of color who are underrepresented in health fields. This learning will impact many of our future open funding opportunities. Organizations working toward building pathways to grow and retain an inclusive and culturally responsive health sciences workforce would also be considered for responsive and invitation-based funding.

Explore our Power theory of change

In spring 2023 we will provide an open opportunity to provide one-year and multi-year funding opportunities to support organizations working on voter engagement, community organizing, policy research and messaging and coalition support for work that aligns with our policy agenda.

In fall 2023 we will provide an open opportunity to provide capacity building grants (one- and multi-year).

Health Forward defines capacity building as an investment in the effectiveness of a nonprofit to achieve its mission. Capacity building supports organizations to deliver stronger quality-programs, strengthen financial health, take risks, build connections, innovate, and grow. We will support capacity building for organizations and communities working to change systems and advance our purpose.  

Explore our Place theory of change

Throughout the year we will provide invitation-based grants (one- and multi-year) to organizations working to: 

  • Improve access to broadband and the equipment and skills to use it effectively  
  • Improve access to safe and affordable housing and homeownership

Both community assets have the potential to build wealth and improve health for our communities of focus. As we continue our landscape analysis and research in these areas, we may consider other open or responsive funding opportunities in the future.

Explore our Platform theory of change

Throughout the year we will provide invitation-based funding opportunities (one- and multi-year) that: 

  • Support cities and municipalities in our region to center equity and race in all policies 
  • Support narrative change efforts that reshape the way people understand and talk about racial, economic, and health equity 
  • Fund training and other capacity building around racial equity

Support beyond the check

Health Forward will continue to support our partners beyond providing grant dollars. This includes lobbying, convenings, networking, and learning opportunities. It also includes consulting and training on various topics including, but not limited to: 

  • Grant writing 
  • Financial operations 
  • Policy and advocacy 
  • Evaluation 
  • Program development 

We will engage in conversations with community organizations, listen to their priorities, and collaborate to strengthen the nonprofit and community health systems.

Our commitment to transparency

The specific process for each individual funding opportunity will be shared in 2023 through our website and email communications. Funded organizations and stories about their impact will be available on our website. Subscribe to our email lists based on your interest or organizational priority.

In 2023, we will offer various opportunities for our partners to gain clarity and ask questions about the shift in our funding approach. We’ll begin addressing frequently asked questions as soon as possible. Send us an email to let us know what’s on your mind.