A mother and daughter ride their bike down a pavement path in a park A mother and daughter ride their bike down a pavement path in a park
Story | 07

A Big Opportunity

By now, surely all of Missouri is aware of our Opportunity Fund, the Foundation’s strategy designed to encourage communities to share their hopes and dreams for a healthier region. Created in 2017, the fund is one way we invest in work that has the potential to examine, challenge, improve, or disrupt the systems that allow inequities to exist. Since its inception, we’ve supported 102 projects with a wide range of topics, scopes, approaches, and timelines.

As a learning organization, assessment and evaluation of our efforts ensure that we’re on the right path for change. After two years of the fund, it was time to step back and determine what was working and where we had room for improvement. We enlisted an outside group to produce a full evaluation report, along with several case studies that highlighted different aspects of the work.

Columbia’s Agriculture Park

We supported a public/private partnership to build an agriculture park that will address community health issues stemming from low fruit and vegetable consumption, inadequate access to nutritious foods, and a lack of outdoor physical activity.

Image from a brochure page about Columbia, Missouri's agricultural park

Improving Community Access to Finance

We collaborated with a group of community-development financial institutions (St. Louis CDFI Coalition) to increase their effectiveness and enhance their ability to build relationships and raise community awareness.

Image from a pamphlet with information about the St. Louis CDFI Coalition

Rural Ozarks Health Initiative

We established a grant pool to address community-defined health issues in partnership with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. This competitive funding is available to their 49 local affiliates located in rural communities throughout our service region.

Image from a brochure page about improving health in Ozark, Missouri

HIV Medical Home in St. Louis

We worked with St. Louis Effort for AIDS and the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin to support their merger, as well as their work to bring the HIV medical home model of care to St. Louis. These medical homes increase access to care, improve health outcomes, and reduce health care costs.

Image from a brochure page about the improvements Missouri Foundation for Health is improving HIV care for the state

The evaluation showed that the Opportunity Fund has been successful in attracting innovative ideas, facilitating stronger engagement with grantees, and creating the conditions for future success. Grantees reported that because of their experience with the process, their thinking had developed, informing not only their Opportunity Fund projects, but all their work. Other benefits include stronger staff relationships with grantees, as well as a greater Foundation understanding of communities throughout the state.

The report encouraged both increased flexibility and more clearly defined goals moving forward. The fund is set to reopen in 2020, beginning its fourth year stronger than ever. Be sure to join our mailing list as news of its launch gets closer!

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