The COVID pandemic deepened health and wellness inequities experienced by our region’s community members and its prolonged impact has continued to place immense strain on our local nonprofit sector. Despite these challenges, our grantee partners have remained unwavering in promoting health equity in our region and throughout Illinois through critical service delivery, grassroots community organizing, and strategic health policy advocacy. In 2021, we recognized the potential to provide impactful support to our partners and the broader community when we used our power as a grantmaker to advocate at COVID response funding tables for hard-hit communities that philanthropy had historically not invested in. 

Guided by our strategic plan, we began a journey to create a policy advocacy framework that seamlessly aligns with our grantmaking priorities. Our goal with this framework is to elevate the leadership, expertise, and solutions of those most affected by health and racial inequities, while reinforcing our support for upstream strategies that strengthen movements and community power to drive change toward health equity in our service region.

Partner Insights Report

In 2023, we sought to expand our understanding of our region’s policy advocacy ecosystem for health equity efforts through in-depth conversations with grantee partners. What we heard was grounded in the expertise and lived experience of leaders and community members of our region, and these insights have built the basis for our policy and advocacy agenda as a foundation.


As a private foundation, there are legal limits we must adhere to when supporting or elevating policy and advocacy initiatives. However, we can leverage our role and voice in the public sphere to promote health equity and justice by amplifying nonpartisan information our partners share about issues that inform our region’s health policy and advocacy efforts.

Guided by our strategic plan and theory of change, our policy agenda highlights critical issues we heard from our partners and details how we envision our role in supporting their advocacy work for health equity in our service region.   

Advocate for increased investments in community-based education, information, resource sharing to assist communities that are or can be at risk of being denied continued coverage under Medicaid redetermination.

      • More than a third of our partners explicitly mentioned the looming information and enrollment assistance gaps they expect to face in 2024 and the estimated 380,000 to 700,000 Illinoisans who could lose Medicaid coverage due to redetermination through mid-2024. Currently, our multi-year and annual grantee partners actively engage in policy initiatives to expand State-based Medicaid-like health coverage to thousands of Illinoisans regardless of immigration status.
      • In addition to this and simultaneous rollbacks of federal public benefits programs, such as SNAP and WIC, this is a critical moment support grantee partners and regional allies that are informing, resourcing, and assisting community members in our region on how to obtain and keep Medicaid coverage, and maintain their access to critical food and safety-net benefits. 

We plan to:

      • Convene our grantee partners with organizing and policy expertise to provide issue education, community updates, and enrollment assistance information to community members, community-based organizations, and institutions, including schools and libraries. 
      • Utilize our relationships and networks to create learning opportunities for elected officials to deepen understanding for outreach, information, and enrollment assistance in our service region.  

Advocate for upstream health equity policy shifts that expand and deepen access to mental health services in our service region.

      • More than half (56%) of grantee partners explicitly mentioned the burden carried by their staff when servicing their own mental health needs and those of the communities they serve.
      • The unprecedented mix of external factors over the last decade (i.e., closures of 50% of Chicago public mental health clinics; the COVID pandemic) have pushed nonprofits to lead the most pressing on-the-ground work while maintaining the health and wellness needs of their staff and internal operations. 

We plan to:

      • Leverage resources and relationships within collaborative funding tables to center partners in our service region that are providing free and/or low-cost mental health services. 
      • Utilize our non-financial capital and hyper-local networks to create learning opportunities for elected officials to more deeply understand the need for increased support of mental health service providers and an expanded understanding of their challenges in our service region.

Advocate for and leverage resources to support organizational and community resilience and civic engagement initiatives in our service region.

      • Nearly half of the organizations we spoke with explicitly connected their policy advocacy and community organizing efforts to the building of resilience and increasing civic participation of their leaders and program participants.  
      • Despite a critical demand for the services they provide, our grantee partners recognize a strong desire among their program participants to engage in deeper advocacy and community organizing to address the root causes of issues they face. There is growing consensus among our partners on the need to move beyond a deficit perspective and reimagine civic inclusion beginning with the institutions closest to the lives of residents i.e., school councils, libraries and park districts.

We plan to:

      • Deepen grantmaking strategies that center and foster organizational and staff well-being and resilience. Integrate learnings regarding the evolution of our partner’s advocacy efforts into our overall impact analysis 
      • Utilize learnings to streamline funding practices and more effectively support partners beyond moments of crisis.