Below are some frequently asked questions. Need more information? Contact us!

About the Health Foundation

What does the Foundation do?

We work together with our community partners to design and support programs to improve health outcomes for older adults and children ages birth to 5 impacted by poverty, and strengthen the community-based organizations that serve them. Learn more about What We Do.

Where is the Foundation located?

The Health Foundation is based in Buffalo, NY, with a second office located in Syracuse, NY.

Where does the money for the Foundation come from?

In 2001, Univera Health Care merged with Excellus, a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan based in Rochester, NY. As a result of that merger, the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York was created and endowed with assets that originally totaled an estimated $100 million. We changed our name in 2012 and are now known as the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.

Where does the Foundation make grants?

We serve 16 counties, including Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties in western New York, as well as Cayuga, Cortland, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego and Tompkins counties in central New York.

Is the Foundation regulated?

The Health Foundation is a private foundation that is classified as a 501(c)(3) organization.

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service requires that private foundations:

  • Pay out at least 5 percent of their endowment annually
  • Pay an excise tax of 1 or 2 percent on their net investment income
  • Ensure that grant dollars are used for a charitable purpose

All private foundations must file Form 990-PF with the IRS annually.

Our Grantmaking

What do you fund?

We consider funding programs that are in line with our mission, vision and values, and support one or more of our three focus areas:

How did the Foundation decide its funding priorities?

When the Foundation was formed, trustees already had considerable experience with health and health care, particularly for underserved populations like vulnerable older adults and children impacted by poverty.

With the first foundation president named in 2003, we spent nearly a year working to identify the needs of communities across both regions, conducting environmental scans and gathering input from residents, community leaders and area experts.

This early research told us that the problems around health and health care in our regions were overwhelming, and our resources weren’t enough to fix all of of them.  Therefore, we had to narrow our scope.  

So we chose to look at this immense challenge through the eyes of two groups of the especially vulnerable in our communities, – children impacted by poverty and older adults –  by working to improve their health care and quality of life, and by keeping their overall best interests in mind.  Since that time our focus has evolved to include community health capacity.

In 2020, we announced a new strategic plan and vision statement that focuses our work through the lens of racial and socioeconomic health equity. We see our vision as a natural evolution of our work, because the Health Foundation has always focused on improving the health of underserved communities. Our vision represents a sharpened, more specific approach that recognizes the role of race and socioeconomic status in health disparities.

Why does the Foundation only fund in western and central New York?

Univera Health Care (formerly Health Care Plan in Buffalo, NY and Health Services Management Corporation in Syracuse, NY) served members in eight counties in western New York and eight counties in central New York, with a 60-mile gap between the regions.

When Univera was acquired by Excellus, the New York State Attorney General approved setting up a foundation to benefit the residents of the geographic areas where the acquired HMOs had been operating, which was in western and central New York. The Rochester area is served by the Greater Rochester Health Foundation.

How does the Foundation determine where to allocate funding?

The Foundation has an allocation formula for its spending targets between western and central New York that relates to:

  • The asset value that each of the original regional HMO partners brought to their merger when they were purchased by Excellus BlueCross/BlueShield; and
  • The relative populations of the two eight-county areas.

The allocation formula results in a spending ratio of slightly more than 2:1 for the western New York region compared to the central New York region. Our Board of Trustees has the authority to make exceptions to this allocation for particular projects.

How can I apply for funding?

To learn more about how you can send us your request for funding, read through Our Grantmaking Process page.