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Improving Health through PHLanthropy

Since the recent uprising and calls for Social Justice, Corporations have been moving left and right to implement practices (or seem as if they are implementing practices) that increase and show respect for the diversity of their staff and communities they serve. An area of injustice that had its true disparities highlighted throughout the recent Covid-19 pandemic was health access and insecurities.

So what are our corporations doing to support our communities and their health? How are they implementing real change that doesn’t just increase their revenue margins. We asked two Black Women in PHLanthropy who work at the interaction of healthcare and corporate philanthropy for their insights and lessons on how organizations can move forward with intention.

On Serving the Community

Rev. Dr. Lorina Marshall-Blake


Independence Blue Cross Foundation

"[Don’t] only focus on access to quality healthcare, but also pay particular attention to the healthcare workforce "

On July 9, 2020, I received a letter from Abington Jefferson Hospital which stated, “At a time when philanthropy is increasingly vital to our success, support from benefactor’s like you have enabled us to not only maintain, but also further enhance our exceptional quality of service of our dental and children’s clinic.

Your Blue Safety Net grant awards demonstrate how concerned individuals can “make a difference” in providing our patients and their families with superior care now and well into the future.”

Since 2011, the Independence Blue Cross Foundation has been committed to leading sustainable solutions that daily improve the health and wellbeing of the community. Our Foundation builds upon the over 80-year commitment of Independence Blue Cross to improve the health and well-being of the neighborhoods southeastern Pennsylvania where we live, we work and we play.

The Abington Jefferson Dental Clinic is only one of the fifty health clinics that we work alongside with our Blue Safety Net Program where we strive to improving access to quality, affordable health care in medically underserved areas. The credo of the foundation and Independence and I too embrace it wholeheartedly that “ Health Care Is A Right”. No one regardless of where they live, their economic status, race, religion, gender should not have affordable health care. The Foundation not only focuses on access to quality healthcare, but we also pay particular attention to the healthcare workforce in advancing the nursing workforce through education and professional development. The Foundation to date has provided over $20 million dollars in nursing scholarships to the 22 nursing schools throughout Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, Chester And Philadelphia County. Additionally, this summer in spite of COVID19 we hosted thirty undergraduate nursing interns who worked with our clinics and with Independence. I believe you would join me in acknowledging that nurses have served as true heroes on the front lines during this crisis.

I believe that the Foundation since 2011 has moved with intent, efficiently and effectively to serve our community. But, in having said this, I still believe that there is still much work to done. For as long as we still have children and families not having enough to eat, families living in shelters, and families that don’t have access to quality healthcare, we who have the ability to impact these situations cannot rest. As for Lorina Marshall Blake, my mantra is and will always be, no matter where I am, where I may be working, I WILL ALWAYS SERVE! In Spite of COVID19, social justice challenges, I believe we can all do better. It begins with each and every one of us. Each person can make a measurable difference in the community. Yes, where we live, Yes, where work and Yes, where we play!

On Supporting Organizations working in the Community

Vanessa B. Briggs


Brandywine Health Foundation

"The variables of culture, geography, gender, and more highlight the need for both better understanding and increased grantmaking to organizations led by people of color."

To be good stewards of entrusted resources, the philanthropic sector must move beyond charity and good intentions that perpetuate harm to understand and address the impact of systemic racism and social injustice in the communities we serve. We must begin by making an authentic and honest assessment of past practices and re-examine the decision-making process in the areas of collaborative funding and inclusive community engagement. Our focus must shift to intentionality on the use of our endowments and we must hold ourselves accountable to measure the impact of equity in our grantmaking. The communities we serve are not monolithic. The variables of culture, geography, gender, and more highlight the need for both better understanding and increased grantmaking to organizations led by people of color. The impact of COVID-19 coupled with the recent protests social injustice has revealed to the philanthropic community the need for greater awareness and greater investment to address pre-existing health, social and economic burdens driven by systemic racism.

Two years ago, the Brandywine Health Foundation embarked on a community driven strategic planning process and adopted “Community Voice” as one of our three strategic priorities. Our goal was to be as inclusive as possible to assure that diversity of thought and perspective would lead to community-driven solutions. We knew that input from the very members of our community who have been subjected to health inequities and social injustice would provide us with a solid platform for the future. Little did we know that this move, two years ago, would position us to better serve our community at the onset of the outbreak of COVID-19 and address racial equity.

The way in which the we center equity into our work can be seen in the following three strategies:

  1. Disrupting How We Do Grantmaking

    1. Moving towards Trust-based Philanthropy whereby we yield our power to the community to determine the problem and humbly reposition ourselves to be an authentic community partner to collaboratively implement solutions.

    2. Increasing multi-year general operating grants by giving our grant partners unrestricted funds to improve program effectiveness, organizational resiliency or systems strengthening as they see fit.

    3. Streamlining the grantmaking application process and reporting requirements to make it easier and more efficient to rapidly deploy funds and conduct virtual meetings in lieu of written reports.

    4. Including community members on our grantmaking committee to share decision making

    5. Assessing our grant partners intention including equity in their work and provide training

  2. Explicitly Addressing Racial Equity

    1. Bringing our board along the DEI and racial equity learning journey to increase their accountability

    2. Embedding equity into our organizational effectiveness plan with indicators and measures

  3. Creating brave spaces for Community Voice: Let’s Talk Community conversations focused on the intersectionality of COVID-19 and race in order to build power in our communities to lead substantive change.

  4. Assessing the use of our endowment for Social Impact Investing to provide capital in much needed Opportunity Zones areas within our service area, City of Coatesville.


As Dr. Marshall-Blake stated, " each person can make a measurable difference in the community." If we all start listening to each other, and understanding our differences, similarities, and needs, and holding each other accountable we can ensure that the organizations serving communities are intentional and impactful.


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