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Funders Forum

The California Wellness Foundation

April 2011

The California Wellness Foundation The mission of The California Wellness Foundation (TCWF) is to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education, and disease prevention. Evaluations of TCWF's work have helped fine-tune the foundation's grantmaking efforts over time, as have partnerships with other grantmakers. The Foundation Center asked TCWF's President and CEO Gary Yates:

QuestionWhat has the California Wellness Foundation learned about the most effective ways to support nonprofits working in its areas of interest, based on its recent collaborations and evaluations?

Answer"We realized that more could be done to address the challenges that small grassroots nonprofits providing services to minority populations face in securing grants from larger foundations. Over half of our grant dollars are awarded to organizations with budgets of less than $2 million, and the majority of our grants go towards general operating support, capacity building support, or some combination of the two. The Weingart Foundation—also based in L.A.—has similar values to ours, and both of us had made separate grants to the Liberty Hill Foundation that funded technical assistance and core support for 50 small, grassroots nonprofits serving minority populations. California Wellness and Weingart's separate grants with Liberty Hill had been successful, so it made sense for us to work together on providing joint support. We welcome other opportunities to work with foundations like Liberty Hill on re-granting projects.

"Given that the state of California is essentially bankrupt, there's been a lot less government funding available for health and human service organizations, so we've been responsive to what our grantees tell us they need. We believe that most nonprofits know best how to do their work, and we lean on their expertise—I myself worked in the nonprofit field for about 20 years before arriving at the foundation. As a result of an eighteen-month strategic planning process we started in 2000, we shifted from having most of our grants be project-oriented and focused on new initiatives, with site visits and quarterly reports on 12 or more objectives—to an open application process beginning with an LOI, followed by a full proposal focused on no more than three objectives and no more than six pages long, with only an annual report required when a grant was made. Cutting down on the overall administrative burden may seem counterintuitive to those who think more monitoring leads to better outcomes, but through our evaluations, we actually found that the reverse was true, and that a more streamlined process led to better outcomes. Ultimately, "less is more."

"Based on our grantees' reports and independent evaluations we have funded, general operating support grants have had a greater impact on grantees' work than project-based grants, not only during the grant period but also afterward—the flexibility allowed them to use funds where they were most needed and accomplish goals more effectively. We found that the operating capital we provided was critical for building a stronger health and human services nonprofit sector in California."

Funder's Forum: Donor Profiles

The Cooper Foundation
November 2014

The National Grid Foundation
October 2014

The Endeavor Foundation
September 2014

The Commonwealth Fund
August 2014

Teagle Foundation
July 2014

Robert R. McCormick Foundation
June 2014

Bush Foundation
May 2014

The Kresge Foundation
April 2014

The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
March 2014

Rauch Foundation
February 2014

Stavros Niarchos Foundation
January 2014

The Louis Calder Foundation
December 2013

The Bella Vista Foundation
November 2013

The Skillman Foundation
October 2013

Rosenberg Foundation
September 2013

The Pittsburgh Foundation
August 2013

Saint Luke's Foundation
July 2013

The Sobrato Family Foundation
June 2013

W.K. Kellogg Foundation
March 2013

Trustees' Philanthropy Fund, Fidelity Charitable
February 2013

The Duke Endowment
January 2013

The Beazley Foundation
October 2012

The Colcom Foundation
September 2012

The Clark Foundation
August 2012

The Hyde and Watson Foundation
July 2012

Annie E. Casey Foundation
June 2012

Robert W. Woodruff Foundation
May 2012

Markle Foundation
March 2012

The Commonwealth Fund
February 2012

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund
January 2012

Posner-Wallace Foundation
December 2011

Public Welfare Foundation
November 2011

Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies
October 2011

Walter & Elise Haas Fund
September 2011

Alcoa Foundation
August 2011

Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation
July 2011

The Cleveland Foundation
June 2011

Fannie E. Rippel Foundation
May 2011

The California Wellness Foundation
April 2011

Jerome Foundation
March 2011

Lumina Foundation
for Education

February 2011

Charles Stewart
Mott Foundation

January 2011

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
December 2010

M. J. Murdock
Charitable Trust

December 2010

Surdna Foundation
October 2010

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