« June 2015 Issue

With Rewards Come Responsibilities: Raising the Bar by $14.8 Million

On March 31, 2015, Community Catalyst announced a $14.8 million legacy award from The Atlantic Philanthropies to launch The Center for Consumer and Community Engagement in Health System Transformation (The Center). We were thrilled to celebrate the successful conclusion of what had been a year-long process of assessment, debate, conceptualization, reflection, budgeting, writing, and a lot of rewriting.

The invitation to be considered for a legacy award signaled that over its 15-year history Community Catalyst had positioned itself as a relevant, positive force in the consumer health advocacy movement. However, making the case for a new, game-changing contribution was going to be a challenge.

A $14.8 Million Stretch

While Community Catalyst had enjoyed a long partnership with The Atlantic Philanthropies—for our Prescription Access Litigation Project, for our work with seniors through the Campaign for Better Care, and as a contributing foundation to the multi-funder supported ACA Implementation Fund—the opportunity was new in size, scope and vision. Although staunchly entrepreneurial (Community Catalyst incubated the seeds of the Commonwealth Care Alliance) and strategic in planning and thinking, we did not have a $14.8 million idea on the shelf waiting for a willing benefactor. Also, merely being invited to submit a proposal for a legacy award did not guarantee a slam-dunk.

As The Atlantic Philanthropies accelerates its giving and impact in anticipation of its 2016 closing, their sights are set on making “big bets” on organizations they believe should be around for a while—anchor institutions that can bring real and lasting effective change. The foundation is not interested in funding more of the same, but rather wants to fuel paradigm shifts that will serve the most vulnerable. Whatever we proposed had to have a long-term plan for revenue generation. Therefore, with dollars not endless, though significant, we had to devise a realistic and robust sustainability plan.

We established guidelines to ensure that we developed something that was new and bold. For instance, we agreed to take stock of what Community Catalyst and the field of consumer advocates do best and what we believe we need to do better as the health care landscape evolves. Additionally, we knew that investing in the field through sub-grants was a no-questions-asked must. We asked the sustainability question about every element of what we considered: How will we pay for it over the long term? Finally, we knew that whatever we proposed to Atlantic would have to complement the health system transformation agenda at the top of our organizational priorities.

The result: a $21 million dollar five-year plan to establish The Center and a $14.8 million request to The Atlantic Philanthropies. (We were invited to submit a proposal in the $15 million dollar range.) We aimed high knowing that even if fully successful, we would have to raise more than $6 million, plus meet Atlantic’s matching requirements, to achieve our goals. We opted for the stretch, and here’s why.

With the passage of the Affordable Care Act we entered a “Health Care 2.0” world that requires a Health Care Consumer Advocacy 2.0 movement. The Center will fuel this movement, but to do so effectively, Community Catalyst and the national network of advocates we support need:

We set forth an ambitious plan to create a center devoted to the lasting and meaningful influence of consumers in the health care system. With Health Care 2.0 upon us, we pushed ourselves even farther and proposed to create a resource that would help ready us for Health Care 3.0 and beyond.

The Investment Is Great. The Demands Are Greater.

The Atlantic Philanthropies grant is designated to specific activities, programs and partnerships, all of which we believe will serve our health system transformation goals. Over 25 percent of the funds will be re-granted, over time, to state-based consumer advocacy groups. There’s no bad news here, but $14.8 million, although quite a substantial investment, is not an all-out solution. Consumer health advocacy organizations are typically under-resourced to meet the demands at hand and many, particularly in the South, face uphill legislative battles coupled with a regional culture that has not been receptive to advocacy. Moreover, as noted in the recently released report by Grantmakers in Health, Health Reform Five Years Later: Philanthropy Steps Up to the Challenge, there needs to be a balance between supporting the advocacy challenges of the day and moving forward in order to break new ground.

The intention of The Center is to make sure that the most vulnerable, often invisible consumers are driving health system transformation now, and developing the blueprints for a truly consumer-centric health system in the future. Together, as a movement, we need to stretch. Community Catalyst is grateful to The Atlantic Philanthropies for the chance to play a pivotal role in creating a person-centered, national agenda for the future of health care.

Diane Felicio, Ph.D., Development Director

O N   T H E   W I R E

Inside Philanthropy and The Chronicle of Philanthropy covered the announcement of the $14.8 million grant awarded by The Atlantic Philanthropies to Community Catalyst for The Center for Consumer and Community Engagement in Health System Transformation.

The Voices for Better Health project released a new video, “Building Bridges to Better Health,” highlighting an innovative collaboration between providers and consumer advocates to infuse geriatrics best practices into the Demonstration Projects for people with both Medicare and Medicaid (dual eligibles). The video was screened on May 15 at the AGS Annual Scientific Meeting, at a forum jointly hosted by Community Catalyst and The John A. Hartford Foundation ChangeAGEnts initiative.

Project Director Alice Dembner speaks with Insurance News Net about the need for stronger federal regulations to make mental health care a priority.

Katherine Howitt, Associate Director of Policy, explains how momentum from the outside helped push Montana’s Medicaid Expansion bill in POLITICO.

On New Hampshire Public Radio, Dental Access Project Director David Jordan explains the important impact dental therapists have on improving communities’ access to oral health.

Join us in congratulating recently promoted staff members: Melinda Crosby to Development Coordinator; Lucy Dagneau to Associate Director of Communications; Katherine Howitt to Associate Director of Policy; and Emily Polk to Program & Policy Associate. 

Community Catalyst Annual Breakfast
November 4, 2015
One Federal Street Boston, MA 02110

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