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Strategic philanthropic investments can be leveraged with other lead hazard remediation funds, to provide support that covers ‘gaps’ in federal and state funding, and allows for new partnerships, interventions and strategies to be piloted in your communityPhilanthropic investment in lead poisoning prevention can advance best practices in housing and health policy, directly fund critical program staff, and support residential lead remediation costs directly. In order to maximize the success of your efforts to access philanthropic support, it is important to understand who your state, regional or community funders are, who and what they are interested in funding, and how their funding process works. While philanthropy will typically fund lead poisoning prevention services such as community outreach, in-home resident and support for blood lead testing initiatives, it is less common that philanthropies will fund direct lead inspections and lead hazard remediation interventions in homes. 

Strategic Implementation

Attracting and deploying philanthropic resources involves an understanding of the potential challenges and opportunities and developing a plan to address those before you approach potential funders. These challenges/opportunities, discussed below, include identifying the types of philanthropic funders, types of funding, funding priorities, geographic footprint, leveraged investment, and catalytic funding requirements.  

 Types of Philanthropic Funders

There may be diverse array of philanthropic organizations that operate in your community, including the following: 

 Community Foundations: Publicly-funded philanthropic organizations that seek to build permanent funds to achieve public benefit for the residents of a specific area. 

 Private FoundationsPhilanthropic organizations whose funds come from a single source (individual, corporation or family), and where representatives of the source of funds play a significant role in governing or managing the foundation. Private foundations include independent, corporate and family foundations, including energy utility and hospital foundations, which may have missions linked directly to the outcomes of lead poisoning prevention. 

Hospital Foundations: Non-profit funding organizations that support the programs and services of a hospital or health system in a community. Hospital foundations can be the ‘fundraising arm’ of a hospital, supporting capital improvements, equipment and professional medical education resources, but hospital foundations can also support community services and projects that directly link to or impact the quality of care for their patients, including addressing housing quality issues. (Link to Hospital Community Benefits page). A subset of Hospital foundations are Health conversion foundations, which are formed when a nonprofit hospital, health care system or health plan is acquired by a for-profit or converted to for-profit status. The proceeds form an endowment which is designed to support the mission of the hospital, typically around improving or advancing the health of the population which were served by the hospital 2010 census identified 306 conversion foundations nationally, which hold a total of $26.2 billion in assets. More information available here: . 

National Foundations: These larger national philanthropies are often the first organizations that come to mind when we think of philanthropy. Increasingly, national funders are seeking investments that reflect communities’ perceptions of their needs, resources and solutions, and are leveraged by local and regional investment. The most effective way to attract national foundation investment in your lead poisoning prevention activities may be to start with the philanthropic partners in your own community, making the case that lead remediation results in long-term, cross-sector benefits, and then leveraging those investments to attract national funding.  

Funder affinity groups

Another avenue for accessing funders interested in supporting this work is through national, state or regional funder affinity groups. Nationally, the Lead Funders CollaborativeHousing Opportunity Fund and the Fund for Smart Growth have supported lead poisoning prevention efforts including GHHI’s work.  

Types of Funding

There are multiple type of funding streams that may be accessed to support your work, including  

Donor-advised fundsallow individuals to make a contribution at a public charity and recommend grants to their project or organization of choice over time. 

Grants: specific pots of funding that often have a timeline, goals, objective and set of deliverables attached to the funds.   

Mission Related InvestmentsA strategy whereby an organization directs all of its resources to furthering a specific mission. This can include financing and capital, direct investment, grants, shareholder activism, and other resources, aligned and directed to support one critical mission. 

Funding Priorities

Every foundation will have designated funding priority areas – often dictated by their board leadership, funding source and/or analysis of where their investments can have the most impact. Philanthropic funders are often interested in demonstrating a broader societal impact of their investments, for example, fostering community development, improving educational outcomes, increasing access to health informationimproving outcomes for children involved in the juvenile justice system, and developing a stronger workforce.  

Preventing or mitigating the impact of lead exposure plays a role in achieving educational, economic and social outcomes. However funders may not currently recognize the connection between your work reducing lead exposure and the outcomes that their foundation seeks to create or support. To address this barrier, consider producing funder outreach materials and presenting to foundation councils or funder affinity groups (in partnership with health professional champions) to relate lead exposure prevention directly to the outcomes the funders may be seeking, including improvement in academic achievement, reduced incarceration rates, linking community members to meaningful careers, building a healthier community, and others. 

Geographic Footprint

Most foundations have a specific footprint, region or state where they concentrate investments, and some foundations that are strictly place-based due to an affiliation with a specific community or set of stakeholders. A first step to engaging funders is understanding which organizations make investments in your community currently, and where funders may be looking to expand or increase investment into your community. A philanthropic scan, or inventory of funders, is an important tool in gaining this information. Some foundation or philanthropic umbrella organizations may have online resources and may also be able to connect you with funders in your area. 

Leveraged Investment

Funders may view the costs of lead remediation to be a barrier to investment, i.e. “My foundation’s investment won’t stretch very far when costs range above a certain point.” Develop a leveraged portfolio of support for your work, so that funders see the opportunity for their investment to attract other dollars, and their role in building cross-sector support for eliminating lead exposure in your community.

Catalytic Funding

Philanthropies often want to ‘catalyze’ or provide seed funding to test out an innovative idea, service or partnership. Funders may have specific preferences or restrictions against investment in the activities of government or may not be interested in investing in services that are viewed as being part of the role of government entities. Thus, local health or housing department or other government entity may not be the best target for philanthropic investment. Think about the partners in your network who may be able to deliver services or are better poised to partner with philanthropies and receive foundation investments. Also, work to develop specific strategies to funders for building their initial, possible smaller investment into long-term support from sustainable sources, including government grants, federal, state and local programs and budgets.

Funders may also be engaged as conveners and capacity builders, by directly funding coalition-building training and advocacy activities, and by leveraging relationships to convene partners to address these needs. The Fund for New Jersey, for example, has provided direct funding and support to bring together statewide, regional and national partners (including GHHI) to develop a Strategic Lead Poisoning Prevention Action Plan for the State of New Jersey and implement strategic recommendations, with the goal of eliminating lead poisoning in the state.

In seeking catalytic support, it’s important to broaden your search beyond the traditional sources of philanthropic support for lead poisoning prevention and think about developing a network of funding that includes local, regional, statewide and national funders seeking to sustainably support a broad range of outcomes. Don’t limit yourself to funders who are already engaged with housing or lead poisoning prevention.


The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo (CFGB)

CFGB is an example of a funder who views their substantial and long-standing investments in residential lead remediation through the lens of their commitment to advancing racial equity and improving educational achievement and workforce readiness. The Community Foundation is a unique funder in the lead poisoning prevention space, because they have made substantial financial investments (leveraged by millions in funding from the New York State Office of the Attorney General, Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development, and other resources), but they have also used their role as a convener to bring together Buffalo’s housing, health and energy partners. Starting in 2011, the Community Foundation has worked to align and braid resources to more effectively tackle issues in the region’s aging housing stock, and holistically meet the needs of greater Buffalo residents. Most recently, the Community Foundation has issued a comprehensive Lead Action Plan, called Renewing Our Pledge: A Path To Ending Lead Poisoning of Buffalo’s Most Vulnerable Citizens 

This document reaffirms a collective commitment to eliminating lead poisoning in Greater Buffalo, and explores specific strategic investments that support systemic changes to achieve this goal. The Community Foundation staffs the Lead Safe Task Force for Buffalo and Erie County to oversee implementation of the plan’s recommendations.

GHHI Lead Catalytic Awards

With JPB Foundation support, GHHI has awarded a number of grants to local organizations to help support their lead poisoning prevention work.  In 2017, GHHI recognized the excellence of 10 organizations on their lead poisoning prevention efforts and presented these organizations with catalytic funding to support their programs.  With no restrictions, the funds could be used to address a variety of program needs including as lead abatement/remediation funds.   

The East Side Neighborhood Development Corporation (ESCDC), based in St. Paul, Minnesota, was one of GHHI’s catalytic awardees in 2017.  ESCDC is a 40-year-old, locally governed community development corporation with a mission to engage the community to foster safe and healthy housing, and to support small businesses.  Governed by a board, comprised of 10 residents and/or business owners, that proportionately reflects the racial composition of the community (70% people of color), ESCDC has played a central role in planning, community organizing, rehabbing, and building hundreds of housing units, and helping dozens of local small businesses succeed.  Their work features a ten-year partnership with Ramsey County Health, which has resulted in 450 homes receiving lead window replacement projects and has recently expanded into window projects for tax-forfeit properties being rehabbed by ESCDC and its partners.   

Since receiving the GHHI catalytic award, ESCDC now has 3 full-time employees on the operational side and has completed over 80 lead free window replacement projects and more than 40 home lead specific cleaning/lead paint encapsulation projects in their target census tracts in 2018.      


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