“I have an opportunity for you.”
I can say with complete confidence that every one of the Health Forward associates and board members during my tenure at the Foundation has heard this from me. I firmly believe that all challenges come with an opportunity.
One of the biggest opportunities of being President/CEO of a foundation is that we often have to say NO to dedicated nonprofit leaders who are requesting money to serve the poor and uninsured.
It’s hard — gut wrenching, at times — but the reality is the amount of requests we receive are sometimes as much as triple the amount of money we have available to distribute. And while one would think that over time would be easier, it in fact has grown increasingly difficult.
During the recent economic downturn, the need for the services that our grantees provide has grown, while local, state and federal funding has decreased. The need is greater than ever and our requests grow larger every year.
Today, Health Forward announced that 26 agencies received a total of $2.4 million in funding through our Healthy Lifestyles Foundation Defined Grant. These agencies are working diligently to make the healthy choice the easy choice for the uninsured and underserved. These 26 agencies will receive letters signed by me with the good news.
But for every one of those letters, another agency will receive a declination letter. It is the unfortunate reality of this business. As proud as I am to sign the grant award letter, it is equally as difficult to sign the declinations.
All of these agencies have my utmost respect. They are all working hard to eliminate barriers to quality health for the uninsured and underserved. While I wish we could fund them all, our associates, external reviewers and ultimately the Board of Directors have to say no to some very valuable programs.
During my tenure at the Kauffman Foundation, Mr. K would always say to “pour cold water warmly.” In other words, when you are telling people that you are not going to fund their grant request, use the opportunity to build a relationship. I can guarantee you this week Health Forward associates are doing just that — reaching out to those organizations who were not funded to help them understand why and inspire them to continue on their noble mission.
Regardless of the letter you receive this week, I hope that all of our nonprofit partners know that I am in awe of your dedication and commitment to service. Whether with our funding or not, we are all working together to achieve the same mission: to improve the lives of those in our community.
I want you to know that, of all the opportunities I have had, the opportunity to work with you has been the highlight of my career.