Nantahala Health Foundation launches NIMble grant program, calls for proposals

UPDATE, AUGUST 6 — Thank you to the 33 WNC nonprofit and governmental leaders who submitted NIMble grant proposals designed to partner with us to address needs in our communities. By early October we hope to announce final decisions on NIMble grant awards and begin distributing funds to these worthwhile organizations and projects, many of which will directly address COVID-related issues.

JULY 7, 2020 — Nantahala Health Foundation has announced a call for grant proposals directed at regional nonprofits and governmental agencies with immediate needs, especially those magnified by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Applications for Needs Immediately Met, or NIMble grants, of up to $10,000 will be accepted through August 5 and are intended to support one-time critical purchases, as well as immediate needs for stabilization or crisis response, said Lori Bailey, NHF’s executive director.

“The NIMble grant program ensures Nantahala Health Foundation can act quickly to meet our partners’ most crucial needs,” Bailey said. “In addition to meeting urgent needs, we are looking for opportunities to work with organizational leaders who bring innovative ideas for addressing social determinants of health in our region to the table.”

A growing body of evidence supports the idea that an individual’s health is influenced by factors beyond the clinical framework of doctors’ offices and hospitals. Known as ‘social determinants of health,’ factors such as housing, education, transportation, access to healthy food, and social supports are known to significantly influence the health of individuals, families, and entire communities.

“To grow and strengthen a culture of health in our communities, we must address the obstacles standing in our way, such as poverty, training for and access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education, safe and affordable housing, in addition to access to quality health care,” Bailey said. “Unfortunately, nonprofit organizations and agencies working tirelessly in our communities to assure quality-of-life conditions are available are often disconnected from medical services and public health programs traditionally considered the sole providers of improved health.”

In addition to NHF’s identified priorities around social determinants of health, the organization signaled its desire to support nonprofit and public agencies impacted by the coronavirus pandemic by establishing its COVID-19 Impact Recovery Fund in April. That is when the foundation launched a community support campaign and opened funding opportunities. To date, nearly $50,000 has been raised, said Lisa Duff, NHF’s advancement officer.

“We are grateful to those community members who have stepped up so far to support this effort,” Duff said. “We realized that launching a major fund-raising campaign so early in our existence was a risky proposition. The immediate need for COVID response, however, forced our young foundation to evolve quickly.”

While it’s true that Nantahala Health Foundation is new to Western North Carolina’s nonprofit landscape, the organization’s regional roots run deep, said Jane Kimsey, who chairs a 10-member volunteer board with representation from each of the six counties served by NHF, as well as the Qualla Boundary.

“We were established a year and a half ago with a mission to eliminate barriers to health, and our hard work is already changing lives,” Kimsey said. “Almost immediately on the heels of our first grant award this past December, the COVID pandemic reached our mountain communities. Our team reacted to the need without hesitation, putting NHF squarely in the category of an up-and-coming change agent for the region.”

Collaborative partnerships are an important part of NHF’s strategy to address health disparities in our region, and something they are modeling through COVID response efforts, said Kimsey. Examples of NHF’s COVID response measures include a growing list of partnerships intended to leverage funds and expand the potential for needed relief. NHF has most recently partnered with United Way of Buncombe County and the State of Franklin to distribute more than 30,000 face coverings, just as N.C. Governor Roy Cooper issued a mandatory order on June 24 making masks mandatory in public places were social distancing is difficult.

A partnership in April with Dogwood Health Trust and other Mission Health System legacy foundations was established to source vital personal protective equipment for medical professionals, first responders and essential front-line workers throughout the region. Additionally, NHF partnered with the Community Foundation of WNC to establish an Emergency Disaster Response Fund that has since distributed some $1.3 million in grants. NHF has also served as a vital conduit of information for critical communications related to resources available to support the service organizations that are so vital to our communities during this time.

Prior to their swift response to the current global crisis, NHF conducted community listening sessions throughout Western North Carolina to learn from nonprofit service providers how they could best work together to improve health outcomes by addressing the region’s social determinants of health. The NIMble grant, along with a second grant to be announced later this summer, are direct results of those sessions, said Bailey.

“We invite nonprofit service providers with immediate needs to call us, visit our website, and follow our social media platforms for more information on how to apply,” she said.

Working as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration, Nantahala Health Foundation seeks to partner with nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, Swain counties and the Qualla Boundary to achieve better health outcomes for all.