The Cameron Foundation Changes Strategy to Make Impact

By Leah Small, The Progress-Index

PETERSBURG – The Cameron Foundation has overhauled the way that it gives grants in order to have a greater impact on the growth of the region. The changes shortly followed the foundation’s 10-year anniversary in April 2013, after the nonprofit examined data on the wellbeing of the Tri-Cities.

Since Cameron began making grants in October 2004, the organization has given $71 million to 260 government agencies, nonprofit organizations and faith-based organizations, in the form of 868 grants.

Cameron is now working to bring together stakeholders to tackle large, systemic problems in the region, instead of just waiting on proposals for grant funding from area organizations. Once a problem and a solution is identified, the stakeholder organizations will join Cameron in finding funding for the initiative.

But individual organizations will still be able to apply for grants. The new, proactive strategy, supplements Cameron’s current efforts.

As for its mission to improve healthcare in the region, the foundation will focus on long-term strategies that go beyond just providing quick access to health services.

J. Todd Graham, president of The Cameron Foundation, said this “proactive grantmaking” will have a greater impact on the region.

“We have invested millions in health care interventions, providing access to affordable [and] healthcare education … but what research has shown recently is that healthcare interventions are one of the less effective ways to improve health in the community. It helps individuals short term,” he said.

According to a statement on the new program from Cameron, the organization aims to tackle environmental obstacles to good health.

“This shift allows the foundation to look at health through a broader lens beyond health care interventions, as research shows, health starts in people’s homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and the larger community – long before the point where a person needs health care,” the statement read.

Cameron has a focus beyond health, and gives grants in the areas of human services, community and economic development, education, historic preservation and conservation and arts and culture.

Graham said that the new process came after Cameron examined 20 community indicators across the region to fine tune how it can improve the area. Some of the indicators examined are the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Outcomes and Factors rankings, behavioral health discharge rates, poverty levels, median income and unemployment rates.

The foundation is moving forward with several initiatives that are part of its new strategy.

One includes an initiative to improve the gateways into the localities of Petersburg, Hopewell, Dinwiddie and Prince George. Cameron brought together the officials in each locality to identify ways to beautify entrances to the cities and counties, and to highlight individual features.

Cameron has also worked with Feedmore to bring together area food pantries to develop a more efficient and effective way to distribute healthy food to the needy. The effort’s initial focus has been on Petersburg because of the city’s high rates of food insecurity and the need for greater coordination between the 13 food pantries operating in the city.

The Cameron Foundation was formed following the sale of the old Southside Regional Medical Center , which was a nonprofit, to the for-profit company Community Health Systems. The proceeds from the sale are used for Cameron’s grantmaking efforts. The service area of the foundation is the same as that of the hospital, which includes the localities of Petersburg, Colonial Heights, southern Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Prince George and Sussex.