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The Pallottine Foundation of Huntington has just passed a milestone - the application deadline for our first round of grantmaking in the 20 counties we serve in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

The foundation's mission, to support transformative health initiatives that empower all individuals to lead lives of optimal health, self-reliance and self-respect, can be achieved in part, through grantmaking.

In this, our first round of grantmaking, we chose to focus on the areas of food insecurity, substance use disorder, mental health, tobacco cessation and capacity building.

Through both responsive and invitation-only processes, we received more than 50 requests for funding that touch individuals in each of our 20 counties. Our board and staff will now spend several weeks carefully combing through proposals, conducting site visits and ultimately making some very difficult decisions about where our initial grant awards will go.

In September, as our first grant recipients are announced, there will no doubt be much attention paid to the funding awards. While it's true that money is an important part of foundation work, there are many other roles that funders like the Pallottine Foundation of Huntington can play, and they can be even more powerful than grantmaking when it comes to helping communities create positive change. Foundations like ours can serve as conveners, technical assistance providers, research and information sharers, and advocates.

In terms of convening, there are few places as open and inviting as foundation-hosted events. Foundations can provide a nonpartisan, nonthreatening, welcoming, respectful space for groups of like minds or completely different views to come together to tackle common problems or build bridges. As an example, foundations across our region meet regularly with local and state partners to address challenges facing our area and brainstorm ways to collaboratively tackle those challenges.

A priority of many foundations is to help enhance the organizational capacity of the dedicated and committed nonprofits who often work tirelessly and with scarce resources for their clients. Foundations can offer or underwrite technical assistance services to help organizations learn how to better apply for grants, raise funds, develop staff skills, and more. Recently, our foundation hosted two face-to-face workshops and one webinar to help nonprofits interested in applying for our capacity building grants. The information shared in those sessions about what constitutes a good grant proposal and how to navigate online grant application systems will be of benefit to any of the organizations that participated, whether they receive funds from us or from other sources.

Gathering research and information is a key component of an effective foundation's strategic philanthropy. It's critical that foundations consistently strive to learn more about the challenges their communities face and the potential solutions that might be of use. Foundations often commission objective research about the issues that matter most to the communities they serve. While gathering information is important, it is the dissemination, or sharing, of that information that can help foster systemic change in communities.

There are rules about what foundations can and can't do when it comes to advocacy, but funders can use their nonpartisan stance and objectivity to help educate policymakers as those policymakers develop approaches to address key issues, particularly ones of relevance to their regions. Foundations can also use their voices to help ensure that existing beneficial policies are implemented equitably and expediently.

As the saying goes, "money isn't everything." Our foundation believes in a just and prosperous economy for our region and in giving everyone an opportunity to move ahead. We know that there are ways to help one another that extend much deeper than mere financial support. Our goal is to be not just a source of funding, but a true partner in our community.

Janell E. Ray is chief executive officer of the Pallottine Foundation of Huntington. Its service area includes Cabell, Wayne, Mason, Lincoln, Mingo, Boone, Logan, Kanawha, and Western Putnam in West Virginia; Lawrence, Gallia and Scioto counties in Ohio; and Boyd, Lawrence, Greenup, Carter, Johnson, Martin, Floyd and Pike counties in Kentucky.

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