Prior to 2020, foundations and other funders were already working on improving the way philanthropy was conducted. Then came COVID-19 and the social rupture driven by centuries of racial inequity and social injustice, and the need to do better could not be ignored. Across philanthropy’s landscape, some funders have stood out for how quickly and successfully they pivoted in crisis response. By sharing their stories in our Adaptable Funder blog series, we are highlighting practices that existed prior to recent crises that enabled flexibility, and lessons learned since that any funder can adopt to be more effective and resilient going forward.

Karen Voci, president of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation for more than 14 years, shared the evolution of the Foundation’s thinking and programming for our blog back in 2019 after the Foundation underwent a strategic planning process led by TPI. Now, Karen speaks to how those shifts were critical to the Foundation’s quick response to COVID-19 in the four New England states it serves and in its work as 2020 progressed. Funders of all types will find value in the best practices she outlines, and health funders, in particular, may want to consider Voci’s thoughts on areas of potential as they, too, look to the future.


TPI: If a funder wanted to adopt three key practices that strengthen everyday philanthropy, and that prove essential in crisis response, what lessons would you offer?
  • First, we have a strategic plan that defines us.
  • Second, our commitments are more than money.
  • Third, our application process is far less complicated and more streamlined than those of many other foundations.

Read the full article about lessons in health philanthropy at The Philanthropic Initiative.