Greener Guidance: Innovative Funding

Dec 17, 2018 | Michelle Shapiro

Note: This is the fifth edition of NACCHO’s Greener Guidance environmental health advice column. See past columns here. Submit a question here.

December 2018

Dear Greener Guidance,

What are some examples of innovative non-grant funding for local health departments?

– Grant-sick

Dear Grant-sick,

Here are some examples of innovative funding in communities in Georgia and Washington:

Cobb & Douglas Public Health, Georgia

Cobb & Douglas Public Health (CDPH) received a Model Practices Award from NACCHO this year for “Growing a 501(c)3 Organization to Diversify Public Health Funding.

Jan Heidrich-Rice, MA, GPC, district development director of CDPH, offered the following advice:

  • Partnerships are key. Partners need to be reminded of why public health needs private support. A good case statement helps. Here’s ours: “CDPH cannot protect the health and safety of the residents of Cobb and Douglas counties by relying solely on tax dollars. Over 40% of our funds must come from fees and private contributions made by individuals, businesses and foundations.”
  • Establishing a 501(c)3 fundraising organization to support public health programs can open doors to new funding opportunities, but it takes tremendous time and effort, too—probably more than a few bullet points can do justice! There are legal/governance issues to consider, not to mention staffing needs (including funds to support the staffing).
  • Hosting events is another avenue people often mention as a sure way to raise substantial funds. Be careful. Events also take tremendous time and effort. In their early years, events are often better at raising friends than raising funds. That’s okay, as long as everyone is involved with eyes wide open.
  • In-kind resources can be a tremendous source of value (e.g., the time and talents of a master-level fellow). Unfortunately, they can sometimes be more trouble than they’re worth (e.g., old equipment with obsolete parts). A policy for in-kind gift acceptance can be a helpful tool. It’s also a best practice to track the in-kind value of donated resources and to thank the partners responsible for making those donations happen.
  • Partners need to feel valued. We never want them to see public health as an outstretched hand waiting to be awarded. Partners like to be asked, “What can we (your local public health agency) do for you?” A win-win outcome is always our end goal.

King County, Washington

In 2015, King County voters approved an initiative to invest in the health and well-being of their
neighbors and communities through the Best Starts for Kids property tax levy. The Best Starts for Kids levy will generate $400 million over six years with an average cost to homeowners of $56 per year.

According to Hannah Johnson, communications specialist for the King County Department of Community & Human Services, “the vision that became Best Starts for Kids began in 2014 under the leadership of Executive [Dow] Constantine. King County staff began examining how the County could improve outcomes and support individuals and communities to achieve their full potential.”

Best Starts for Kids has four focus areas:

  • Invest early: Support pregnant individuals, babies, very young children, and their parents during critical developmental years with a robust system of support services and resources that meets families where they are—home, community, and child care.
  • Sustain the gain: Continue progress made with school- and community-based opportunities to learn, grow and develop through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.
  • Communities matter: Support communities to build safe, thriving places for children to grow up.
  • Results focused & data-driven: Use data and evaluation to know what is working for kids and communities.

Additional Resources


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About Michelle Shapiro

Michelle Shapiro is a communication specialist for the Environmental Health & Disability team at NACCHO.

More posts by Michelle Shapiro

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