The impact of the Rx Foundation is far greater than the sum of our grants, which now exceed $35 million. By “impact” we mean much more than the anticipated deliverables of our grant-making. We include as well the ripple effects of additional achievements and actions triggered by the grants plus the learnings drawn from the funded work. Three processes that unfold over the life of a grant – and beyond – are key to stimulating these outcomes: how we determine what grants we make; how the grants evolve; and what further leveraging occurs.
The Rx Foundation has made more than 270 grants since our founding in 2002, and the resulting collaborations have addressed a wide range of challenges in the health care delivery system and in affected communities. Whether we have deep content expertise in a particular area or not, we arrive as careful listeners and willing learners. We seek to be thought partners, connectors, and allies – as distinct from gatekeepers – thereby expanding the potential for ripple effects. As potential grantees emerge, we discuss possible projects, engage in conversations to sharpen a developing plan, and explore the evolving partnership.
How Partnerships Deepen the Rx Foundation Impact
We see the process of making a grant as considering a partnership – not merely a proposal. We are not looking for the organizations with the best grant writers. We are looking for people and initiatives that will set something larger in motion – innovators with vision and a stake in their communities who can advance health justice in meaningful, transformative ways.
Some benefits of this approach are evident when a grant is made. Having worked with the potential partner to define the grant, we have an appreciation for the leader, organization, and specific work. But as the funded work evolves, unanticipated opportunities and benefits often become evident. Those benefits may not be among the planned deliverables, or the ones captured in a grant report. We have found that often the most valuable learnings and unexpected impacts of a grant emerge in conversation. This is why we now prioritize discussions with applicants and partners as key to our application and reporting processes. It’s why we now host and promote discussions with and among our grant partners in formats that reveal and share learnings with each other and with the broader health justice community.
The Rx Foundation Impact Expands Through Networks
In addition to conversations, we prioritize helping our partners expand connections. We look for opportunities to make connections in our broad network of partners and colleagues and to raise awareness of what our grant partners are doing and learning. We look for avenues by which local or regional efforts can be models and contribute to addressing vital national issues.
Of the ripple effects from a grant, the most significant opportunities and benefits may not be clear until after the funded work is complete. The ripple effects may be a function of conditions that didn’t exist when the grant was underway but that benefit from the funded activity.
The funded work may leverage a range of attributes that have significant societal value. A grant to pilot a new approach may prove that approach’s worth. The proof may enable organizational growth that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred. The funded activity may expand or deepen relationships within the community that foster other collaborations. A grant may leverage funding from other philanthropic sources. Even a short-term grant may provide lasting benefits.
The examples below highlight specific stories of ripple effects and impact from Rx Foundation grant partners.