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Overview & Guidelines

Foundation Funding Priority Areas for 2020: Service delivery systems 63%; family health 32%; chronic disease 5%

The Highmark Foundation has been a catalyst for community and family health throughout western and central Pennsylvania as well as West Virginia. Grants and funding are divided into three broad categories.

Programs eligible for Foundation support include evidence-based demonstrations, pilot projects, model programs, expansion plans, and well-established initiatives. Ideally, the Foundation seeks to support programs in various stages of development that impact multiple counties and attract collaborative funding from community partners. Read our guidelines below.

The Foundation has awarded grants to hospitals, community health centers, health service organizations, local community groups, and government agencies committed to building strategic partnerships and improving community health.

If your proposal meets our goals and funding priority areas, the next step is to complete our online grant application.



The Foundation approaches grantmaking proactively, and uses research to identify areas of need in which its funding will make a profound difference.

After an area of need is identified, grantmaking is performed primarily through invited proposals, Requests for Proposal (RFP), or unsolicited proposals that may be of interest to the Foundation.

The Foundation limits its grantmaking to nonprofit organizations that are defined as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and as public charities under section 509 (a) of the code.

The Foundation awards grants in the area of health, defining health broadly to include social, behavioral, and other dimensions beyond illness or disease. The Foundation focuses its grantmaking in three areas: chronic disease, family health, and service delivery systems.

Ideally, the Foundation seeks evidence-based programs that impact multiple counties, that achieve replicable long-term models, and that attract collaborative funding by community partners.

Foundation grants have been awarded to nonprofit health related and organizations committed to improving community health. Programs at various stages of development are eligible for Foundation support, including demonstrations, pilot projects, model programs, expansion plans and well-established initiatives.

In general, the Foundation does not give grants for the following:

  • Galas
  • Dinners
  • Golf tournaments
  • Capital campaigns
  • Capital costs, including construction or renovation
  • Purchase, rental or maintenance of vehicles
  • Annual fundraising campaigns
  • Deficit funding
  • Endowments
  • Clinical research
  • Scholarships
  • Overhead costs
  • Direct financial subsidy of health services to individuals or groups
  • Individual needs or other forms of financial aid
  • Lobbying or political campaigns

Invited proposals target specific audiences and activities identified by the Foundation. Unlike requests for proposals (RFPs), these may represent a long-term commitment from both a specified grant recipient and the Foundation. All phases of the project must be accepted by the Foundation prior to funding, including estimated costs, timelines, and expected results.

The Foundation periodically issues an RFP related to specific health challenges. Organizations with demonstrated capacity or evidence of a strong potential to meet these challenges are invited to respond to an RFP. Grants will be awarded based on a competitive analysis of all proposals submitted and responsiveness to the specific RFP requirements.


Proposals should only be submitted using the online grant application.

The grantmaking process involves evaluating a program based on whether or not it aligns with the Foundation's three priority areas; and

  • Conforms to the Foundation's goals, strategies and focus
  • Creates models with potential application throughout communities served by Highmark Inc., its subsidiaries and affiliates
  • Demonstrates new and sustainable ways to solve health problems
  • Reduces long-term cost or duplication of services and resources
  • Incorporates sound programmatic methods and evaluations as building blocks for long-term program success
  • Illustrates the effectiveness of early intervention and preventive health programs
  • Stimulates the efficient use of scarce health resources through cooperative planning and program initiatives while encouraging
  • cross-sector collaborations between and among health care institutions, schools and other organizations
  • Improves and assures access to quality health care for underserved populations in both urban and rural areas
  • Advances the health equity agenda
  • Seeks creative ways to leverage the Foundation's budget, which is limited because health care challenges are too numerous and complex to be addressed by a single foundation

To respond to an invited proposal, the following information is required.

  • The history and mission of your organization
  • A brief statement of the problem
  • A description of the proposed project, including its importance, objectives, target population(s), qualifications of staff, its impact on the community, and project start/completion dates, including a timeline
  • A statement of how the project fits into other work being done in the community, region, and/or field
  • A description of what constitutes success and how the organization plans to measure it
  • A description of how the program outcomes will be communicated to relevant audiences
  • The requested amount of funding, an itemized budget of the overall project, and indication of any other prospective funding sources
  • General information, including contact and phone number
  • A copy of the organization’s IRS letter of tax-exempt status

The Foundation’s board of directors meets three times per year (spring, summer, and fall) to review and approve proposals. Once a grant is approved, additional information, including a site visit, may be required. Applicants are notified by email once the proposal has been approved for funding.