Flexible, Timely & Pooled Funding Key to Supporting Communities, Saving Lives


Community outreach workers working at a mobile COVID vaccine clinic

When COVID hit, PHI’s Together Toward Health program worked with more than 20 funders to create a pooled fund supporting community-based organizations with non-restricted, flexible and timely grants to continue to be a lifeline in communities most impacted by the pandemic.

$33M+ TTH granted to over 548 CBOs

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, communities of color and low-income communities faced some of the greatest challenges in accessing reliable health information and resources which were critical to saving lives. The Public Health Institute’s Together Toward Health program understood the critical role and power that community-based organizations (CBOs) have in reaching some of California’s most vulnerable and impacted communities and recognized that CBOs don’t always have the funding to do the work in communities that’s necessary or the funding and grant reporting process is typically a long and difficult one.  In addition, local health departments and government funders many times must follow complex funding requirements that can slow down the process of CBOs applying for and receiving funding.

Together Toward Health understood many of these challenges and worked with funders to develop a pooled grantmaking fund for California’s most vulnerable communities. In order for the funding to be flexible and to get to communities quickly, Together Toward Health worked with funders and CBOs to improve the grantmaking process and remove the following major barriers:

  • Simplified the grant application process by reducing the number of pages from eight to a maximum of two pages and worked directly with some grantees to help them fill out report submissions.
  • Ensured that money was distributed quickly with a percentage of grant funds going to CBOs immediately, so CBOs weren’t in a position to front costs.
  • A pooled fund allowed for greater investment in communities during COVID and the funding came from a diverse group of funders, many of whom would not have been able to fund CBOs and their work in communities by themselves.
Susan Watson
Most of all, we trusted our grantee partners to serve their communities in the ways they knew worked best, with limited restrictions on what they could purchase or do to help their communities stay safe or recover from COVID. Giving grantees flexible support and the space to do what they do best led to incredible creativity, responsiveness, and impact in communities across California. Susan Watson, MPH

Director, Together Toward Health & CA4Health, Public Health Institute

During the COVID pandemic, Together Toward Health was able to play a critical role in getting funds out into communities in weeks, rather than months, and ultimately helped to save lives. Here are just some of the ways that CBOs were innovative with the funding and were able to be a critical lifeline in their communities:

  • Hired, trained, and paid Community Health Workers to expand their capacity and reach in communities.
  • Provided resources such as transportation, language support, and tents with shade for mobile pop-up clinics that expanded the community’s access to COVID vaccination sites.
  • Provided culturally relevant approaches for COVID education such as engaging elders in Native communities, to discuss how COVID safety guidelines could align with their traditional ceremonies or rituals.
  • Addressed vaccine hesitancy in communities through creative approaches such as an educational superhero comic and short film, original songs, social media outreach “parties”, partnering with a Grammy-nominated musician, and offering free showers and hygiene supplies along with vaccines for unhoused residents.
The TTH funding really let us get on the ground. We were in a crisis, so if you have to spend a week doing paperwork, that’s a week we weren’t able to get out to get people scheduled for vaccination and testing. [Time] could be the difference between whether people die or live in our community, so flexibility was everything. Felisia Thibodeaux

Executive Director, Southwest Community Corporation

The Together Toward Health funding model is one that could be replicated in other places and for different public health emergencies. It demonstrates how flexible and trust-based grantmaking can empower CBOs in being innovative and meet more of the needs in their communities and it also helps funders expand their impact and place equity at the center of their work.

Together Toward Health connects with community-based organizations to expand workforce development opportunities for Californians most impacted by COVID-19, and to create and amplify public outreach efforts to reduce its spread. Together Toward Health is a joint initiative administered by PHI and created and funded through more than 20 major philanthropic organizations. From 2020-2022, TTH granted more than $33 million reaching over 548 CBOs, supporting everything from vaccine outreach and education to language support, transportation, food distribution, and more. For more information, visit Together Toward Health’s website.

Community outreach workers working at a mobile COVID vaccine clinic

Learn more about Together Toward Health's impact in communities

PHI engaged Harder+Company Community Research and Ross Strategic at the onset of the initiative to evaluate the impact of Together Toward Health. The evaluation used a mixed methods approach, incorporating quantitative data and narrative stories, to summarize TTH-funded activities, explore the implementation of the TTH model, and identify community-level impact of TTH funding on addressing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

See the evaluation briefs

A version of the impact story first appeared in the 2022 Together Toward Health Impact Report and  Evaluation Brief.

Work With Us

You change the world. We do the rest. Explore fiscal sponsorship at PHI.

Bring Your Work to PHI

Support Us

Together, we can accelerate our response to public health’s most critical issues.


Find Employment

Begin your career at the Public Health Institute.

See Jobs

Aerial view of wildfire smoke


Wildfires & Extreme Heat: Resources to Protect Yourself & Your Community

Communities across the U.S. and around the world are grappling with dangerous wildfires and extreme heat. These threats disrupt and uproot communities and pose serious risks to environmental and community health—from rising temperatures, unhealthy air pollutants, water contamination and more. Find PHI tools, resources and examples to help communities take action and promote climate safety, equity and resiliency.

Get started

Continue to