Alison Perencevich, Program Director, Grantmakers In Health
Earlier this year, Grantmakers In Health (GIH) fielded a survey on funder approaches to addressing trauma and resilience. At the time, health funders identified trauma-informed care as an emerging issue of significant interest for continued learning and networking. Since then, COVID-19 and continued racial violence have only heightened the urgency and importance of addressing trauma, grief, stress, and burnout. In addition to the well-being of frontline workers, survivors, and those most impacted by COVID-19, the nation will likely face a second wave of increased depression, anxiety, suicide, substance use, overdose, and violence. The pandemic’s toll exacerbates existing health, economic, and social inequities disproportionately experienced by communities of color due to institutional racism, systemic oppression, and generational trauma.
Over 75 foundations responded to GIH’s survey, sharing if and how their organizations are addressing trauma and resilience. Eighty-seven percent of respondents currently invest in trauma and resilience efforts, with 64 percent identifying trauma and resilience as a strategic priority or significant investment. The full survey results can be found in GIH’s recently released infographic that details key strategies and primary focus areas, along with challenges and opportunities in the field. We hope the survey data provide a timely snapshot of the current funding landscape and help inform future grantmaking strategies.
Many health funders are making investments in trauma and resilience. The majority of respondents are focused on the health, social service, and school settings, however there are considerable gaps in funding for many historically underinvested and marginalized communities; most notably, LGBTQ+, justice-involved, and individuals impacted by abuse, domestic violence, community violence, homelessness, mental illness, and substance use. Though this survey did not specifically ask about funding for racial and ethnic minorities, these groups are disproportionally affected and often not a philanthropic priority.
As health funders strive to meet this moment, it will be critical to ensure that trauma-informed approaches are rooted in equity and history. Before the pandemic, less than 20 percent of respondents were funding disaster response and recovery, and only 35 percent focused on economic instability or homelessness. Similarly, only about one-third of respondents are addressing secondary traumatic stress, which encompasses burnout, fatigue, and distress experienced by many on the frontlines of the pandemic and social justice movements. Few funders identified historical trauma and intergenerational healing approaches as a focus area; yet, the path forward must be informed by the past, with philanthropic strategies centered on healing justice and health equity principles.
Finally, addressing the cooccurring crises facing our communities will require philanthropy to support a range of strategies. Systems capacity building, cross-sector convening, and direct services were the most cited strategies in the survey, while research and evaluation were the least. Sharing data, experiences, and lessons learned from work in this area is vital to growing the collective knowledge base necessary to advance the field. To help promote peer learning, GIH encourages funders to share or retweet this infographic along with examples, insights, or stories of your work on trauma and resilience. Send us an update with any grant examples or resources that can be shared with the field to help funders continue to learn, connect, and grow.