In our Adaptable Funder series, we are highlighting practices from a range of funders that enabled flexibility and efficacy in the face of the crises of 2020, and lessons learned for more powerful philanthropy, no matter the area of focus. Health funders, by their nature, are on the frontlines in support of particularly vulnerable populations and offer unique perspectives for all of us to consider. They have long been keenly aware of the deep inequities and vast challenges COVID-19 laid bare, and when the pandemic hit, they were among the first to rethink and to rework processes and strategies to aid those sliding into an ever-deepening crisis.

For this post, I sat down with President Nora OBrien-Suric, Vice President of Programs Diane Oyler, and Senior Program Officer for Caregiving Ken Genewick of the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York (HFWCNY). The organization serves 16 counties in western and central New York, with offices in Buffalo and Syracuse. The two regions are not contiguous and include rural and urban communities with broadly diverse socioeconomic and racial populations. The Foundation, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2022, delivered its newest five-year strategic plan to its board in March 2020, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the U.S. They quickly discovered that in that process they had tackled prescient questions: How do we strategically serve a vastly diverse population? How do we create significant lasting change? And as important, how will the plan hold up over time – and through the unfolding of an unimaginable reality?

Read the full article about systemic change in philanthropy by Lisa Payne Simon at the Philanthropic Initiative.