As we learned how best to partner with community organizations, we made pivotal decisions that changed how we operated. Through deep discussions with advisors and partners, we learned to:

  1. FOCUS ON THE ROOTS OF HEALTH, EVEN WHEN IT PUSHES US OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE.

    We realized that the most impactful change must go beyond individuals to influence the systems and policies that affect whole communities.

  2. SET THE STAGE WITHOUT DEFINING THE SCRIPT.

    Instead of defining what we would fund, we articulated a vision for what we wanted to see in the world and then asked community organizations how we could best share the resources and expertise to realize that vision.

  3. Commit to growing organizations, not just funding programs.

    In our early years, we would hear of organizations with great ideas, but these organizations faced barriers that left them out of our grant process. We recognized the value of the people and ideas of these organizations and decided to fund capacity-building efforts that could accelerate their growth.

  4. Formalize and articulate our approach with guiding values.

    After eight years of grantmaking, the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund explicitly articulated a set of guiding values that shaped who we funded and how we funded them. These guiding values not only gave us criteria for evaluating grant requests, but also ensured institutional memory as staff transitioned in and out of the Fund. We believe these guiding values make community investments more effective and longer lasting: social and racial equity, collaborative partnerships, community-driven solutions, systems change.

 

Download “Improving Health Through Community-led Partnerships: Lessons Learned from the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund” to read more about what we learned and our recommendations for other funders.

 

Although we believed in the inherent power of these guiding values, we were also curious whether and how funded partners applied the values in their work to create conditions for health in their communities. We conducted a study of twenty funded partners and discovered that all of them used the Fund’s guiding values to drive system changes that led to new opportunities for health. Read the full story of what we learned in this Guiding Values Data Brief.