HEFN's 2015 Year in Review

January 13, 2016

This post was authored by HEFN Director Kathy Sessions.

We’re pleased to share highlights of 2015.

HEFN's work would not be possible without the insights, commitment, support, and active participation of its funder leaders and members. HEFN’s largely behind-the-scenes work in philanthropy aimed at powering up a dynamic field that’s safeguarding public health, social equity, and environmental quality.

In marking a productive 2015, we acknowledge with appreciation HEFN’s many partners in social change, and we anticipate even more collective impact in 2016.

Active Members Making a Difference

In 2015 many HEFN members consulted, collaborated, and invested around ambitious targets for change to make environmental conditions healthier.

Numerous members helped sustain advocacy in toxics-focused policy and market campaigns, elevating health-protective interests as Congress moved close to the finish line in overhauling US chemicals policy. Several also spearheaded development of new initiatives in toxics, green chemistry, and children’s environmental health. 

Members concerned about shale oil and gas development supported research building evidence of health, water, and other impacts, as well as public interest advocacy and a pooled fund for grassroots response in impacted communities. These efforts helped inform a New York state fracking ban and moratoria in Maryland and several municipalities, while building support for transitions to cleaner energy. HEFN members joined with other philanthropic peers in advancing the Divest-Invest movement or began innovative grantmaking linking climate change, health, and equity interests.

Place-focused members strengthened environmental health and justice activities in many communities (in the US, southern China, and elsewhere), with a diverse grantmaking menu including in grassroots organizing, environmental and reproductive justice, housing, air quality, land use, and economic development. Other members also collaborated with peers in global grantmaking, advancing health and equity interests in global trade negotiations, European environmental health policy, and global movement-building.

New Members, Leaders, Staff, and -- Upcoming-- Directions

HEFN enthusiastically welcomed the Barbara and Donald Jonas Family Fund, the CS Fund, the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, and the Rockefeller Family Fund into its active community of foundation and donor members. 

Shenyu Belsky of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Andrea Bretting of the Claneil Foundation joined HEFN’s Steering Committee which helped guide the network and provided leadership for programs, operations, and outreach.

HEFN’s staff got a boost as Jeff Wise signed on as Program Director, bringing great experience from work including with the Alliance for Justice, Pew Charitable Trusts, and National Environmental Trust. 

The Steering Committee and staff collaborated in strategic planning throughout 2015, including through numerous interviews and a July Pocantico Center retreat. Look for an announcement in early 2016 of HEFN’s new strategic directions!

Programming, Learning, and Networking

Throughout 2015 HEFN organized programming to help funders stay current on key issues, learn about emerging concerns, and explore areas for joint work. Most HEFN programs were jointly offered with philanthropic partners to expand learning, collaboration, and investments. 

Funder calls and webinars covered a range of hot topics, including: environmental health science updates; research on effective environmental health communications; implications of global trade negotiations; Congressional chemicals policy debates; children’s environmental health grantmaking; fracking and agriculture issues intersecting with money in politics; emerging threats to the Great Lakes from fossil fuel development; and the expanding impacts of oil trains and gas pipelines.  

HEFN collab

orated on programming for other philanthropic meetings, like a dinner on children’s health jointly offered with the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders and Grantmakers In Health (GIH) for the GIH 2015 meeting, and a climate and health session for the Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) 2015 Fall Retreat.  
The year’s programming culminated in back-to-back meetings in Baltimore in November.  HEFN partnered with the Climate and Energy Funders Group, the Consultative Group on Biological Diversity, and EGA in hosting Beyond Drilling: Strategies to Address the Oil and Gas Industry’s Expanding Footprint. This briefing provided a deep dive into concerns and strategic opportunities related to shale infrastructure expansion. 
HEFN’s 2015 Annual Meeting on Leveraging Change: Tried, True, and New Ways to Invest for Environmental Health & Justice highlighted both proven and novel approaches to making change, from the grassroots to global levels. Rounding out the Baltimore offerings were two site visits into local communities and themed dinners exploring topics like environmental health communications and climate, health, and equity grantmaking.

Communications & Publications

HEFN provided a steady stream of information, analysis, and perspectives for environmental health and justice philanthropy throughout 2015. Giving InSight, HEFN’s blog for and about funders focused on health and the environment, featured funder voices on topics like:

HEFN staff posts provided updates on topics like chemicals policy reform and the federal environmental health budget. Through social media, HEFN shared news and updates on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

2015 was a big year for attention to climate change and its health impacts. Director Karla Fortunato publicized rising global attention and philanthropic activity in a Health Affairs’ Blog post. Responding to rising societal concerns and member interests, HEFN and ecoAmerica also jointly released Achieving a Climate for Health:  Philanthropy to Promote Health and Justice through the Challenges of Climate Change, a briefing paper to support funder learning and engagement in this emerging area.   Email Andrea Levinson to request a print copy of the report.

Public Policy

In 2015, HEFN cont

inued to strengthen its capacity and members’ impact on public policy. Staff completed an assessment of HEFN’s public policy-related opportunities, drawing resulting analysis into member communications, programming, and strategic planning.

HEFN expanded relationships with policymakers in relevant federal agencies. In February HEFN took a delegation of members to meet with officials in the White House, Council on Environmental Quality, and Environmental Protection Agency to discuss environmental health priorities. HEFN staff met in May with officials from the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Environmental Health and, in September, participated in a meeting on advancing health equity hosted by the US Department of Health and Human Services. 

Field Engagement & Service

To sustain and expand relationships among grantmaking communities, HEFN staff attended numerous philanthropic events in 2015, including several meetings of national affinity groups and the 2015 convening of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. HEFN supported a group of its members in a discussion with a corporate foundation exploring green chemistry grantmaking.
Reaching beyond philanthropy, staff represented its funder community and joined efforts to strengthen the environmental health field, including through the National Environmental Health Partnership Council, the Building Equity and Alignment for Impact initiative, a new Cancer Free Economy initiative, and the MomentUS Climate Health Leadership circle.

HEFN staff provided more than 30 “office hours” consultations in 2015, offering strategic, development, and/or organizational advice to funders, donors, nonprofits, journalists, and other funder groups.

From our Blog

Blog posted on January 23, 2015
As we reflect on 2014 and look forward to the year ahead, HEFN is truly grateful for its strong leaders. In this blog post, Andrea Levinson of HEFN discusses HEFN’s leadership transitions and thanks...

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