Funding Community Health Activities: An Experiment Comparing Health Foundation's Priorities to Those of Public Health Agencies, Hospitals, and Nonprofit Organizations

Michael D. Rozier, Jane Banaszak-Holl, Karalyn A. Kiessling, Simone R. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Context: Health foundations provide significant financial resources for community health. Foundation priorities, therefore, can play a key role in setting community agenda, but little is known about the criteria foundations use to prioritize projects. Objective: To understand the priorities that guide decision makers in health foundations and compare those priorities with what is known about nonprofit hospitals, public health, and community-based nonprofits. Design: An online survey with a discrete choice experiment and open-ended questions, asking respondents to choose between different types of community health projects based on project characteristics. Setting: Survey respondents were employed by health foundations located in the United States. Participants: Respondents were leaders at health foundations (n = 173), the majority of which (56.2%) worked at foundations with assets greater than $50 million. These respondents were compared with an earlier survey (n = 561) from nonprofit hospitals, public health, and community-based nonprofits. Main Outcome Measures: A conditional logit model was used to estimate how various project characteristics led to greater or lesser support of a given health project. Open-ended questions aided interpretation. A two sample t test was used to compare groups. Results: Foundation decision makers placed the greatest value on programs with coalitions of community partners, programs with a growing or existing base of evidence for effectiveness, and programs that focus on social determinants of health. These priorities are similar to those of community nonprofits, public health departments, and health systems. However, foundation leaders are more willing to fund interventions with longer time horizons and interventions that are not yet fully evidence-based. Foundations are also less interested in clinical care and more interested in advocacy programs. Conclusion: Cooperation in funding and implementation is essential to community health improvement, and major organizations could benefit from everyone clearly articulating their priorities. There are good reasons to intentionally foster both similarities and differences in priorities across organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E662-E669
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Health Management and Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • community health improvement
  • discrete choice experiment
  • health foundation
  • philanthropy

Cite this