June 20, 2024

Staying Nimble: Shifting Funding Strategies for a New Reality

Advancing health and wellness for those in need

In the wake of the January 2024 devastating flood damage impacting many San Diego communities and the continuing humanitarian support needed for migrants coming through Mexico into San Diego, we have just completed our next year’s budget with an important adjustment in our funding strategies. While most of our grant programs focus on upstream strategic initiatives, we also know that philanthropy plays an important role during regional crises or disaster by providing swift aid to those closest to the impact. We can’t predict the future, but we should expect that the need for us to provide emergency response will arise again, and we have allocated a portion of our annual funding budget for community emergency aid.

Some of you may be familiar with AHF’s historical Responsive Grant Program, which provided urgent funds to individual organizations during a time of unexpected change or challenge. We will no longer be operating an open call for such types of grants, but rather be prepared to provide those limited resources in times of broader community need.

Why is this significant to AHF?

As a private foundation aimed at supporting and influencing long term sustainable impact, leading to greater health equity for all, this “responsive” budgeted funding decision is a departure from our historic overall strategy. Most of our grant programs place emphasis on upstream strategic grantmaking, advancing sustainable innovation, and providing general core operating support. However, providing critically needed emergency aid is still very much aligned with our enduring mission to advance health and wellness for those in need.

While still a relatively small portion of our overall grantmaking, the allocation of funds reserved for emergency response did require us to make funding reductions in other areas of our budget. No single funding program will be eliminated, but there may be fewer dollars in each of them for the foreseeable future.

We are grateful to have the dynamic participation of an engaged board of trustees. Because of their collective commitment to trust-based funding and bold philanthropy, they have demonstrated time and time again, that they are willing to adjust to new realities and make strategically calculated decisions in an efficient and timely response in line with our mission.

Predicting the unexpected

AHF has a long history of acting swiftly during regional emergencies, making quick decisions to reallocate and deploy necessary funding to support community agencies and impacted individuals on the ground. Over the past several years, examples of instances where such immediate response funding was needed include during the onset of COVID-19, multiple surges of migrants arriving in San Diego and overwhelming the community’s social services safety net, and the recent devastating January 2024 floods. In each instance, AHF shifted resources quickly to trusted, effective community responders. While we continue to expect and appreciate the necessity of funding and long-term infrastructure investments that can only be sustained by local and regional government, we also recognize that philanthropy can often act more swiftly at the onset of crisis to fill urgent gaps and meet immediate basic needs until more sustainable response strategies are deployed.

How does this decision impact our partners and the greater community?

You won’t see a page on our website for Responsive Funding, as these grants are not intended to support individual agencies with isolated emergent needs. There will not be an application or open-call for emergency funding. Rather, our staff will be better prepared and positioned for the next humanitarian crisis and will be able to step in quickly to work with and support our partners.

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