A Snapshot of Aging and Philanthropy Today

Article excerpt

Philanthropy is a vibrant resource for aging research, teaching, and service provision today. Funders who are committed to philanthropy to benefit older people are strong advocates, and substantial progress has been made toward greater diversification of funding interests and creativity in aging funding initiatives. And, while the amount of grant money specifically targeting older adults remains a relatively small proportion of all foundation funding, older adults do benefit from many broader funding initiatives aimed at the more general population. This article describes the work of the philanthropic affinity organization Grantmakers in Aging, provides a brief overview of the current state of foundation funding in aging, highlights the work of the largest funder of grants in aging and of a major funder of innovative projects in other areas of particular benefit to older people, and describes resources for identifying potential sources of funding for aging projects.

GRANTMAKERS IN AGING

Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) and its current programs reflect the breadth and depth of funding interests in aging today. The organization was established following a 1982 meeting on aging issues organized by Trudy Cross, a consultant on aging for the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, at the National Council on Foundations meeting in Detroit (Grantmakers in Aging [GIA], 2006a). GIA has since developed into an organization with international members and a wide variety of programs presented throughout the year. GIA is dedicated to promoting and strengthening grant making in an aging society. GIA programs include an annual national conference, issue discussions, a regional issues forum, a mentoring program offered as a membership benefit, the John Feather Diversity Award program, and the EngAGEment Initiative (GIA, 2006b).

GIA develops new initiatives as needed. For example, the organization's Hurricane Fund for the Elderly is a public-private partnership with the Administration on Aging that was launched in the wake of the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes. The project is a vehicle for directing funds and other resources to nonprofit organizations reestablishing services for older adults in the Gulf region. The initial grant recipients, July 2006, were six agencies serving older adults in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi that received a total of $544,000. Providing an example of collaboration among philanthropic and other organizations under the GIA rubric, funders include the Atlantic Philanthropies (New York), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (New Jersey), the Retirement Research Foundation (Illinois), and the AARP Foundation (D.C.), in partnership with the UJA-Federation (United Jewish Appeal) of New York, the Southeastern Council of Foundations, and others. GIA continues to solicit funding partners to meet the large number of requests for assistance (GIA, 2006c).

GIA projects reflect a commitment to understanding the diversity of experiences in aging and a recognition of innovative programs addressing issues related to diversity and aging. Recipients of the John Feather Diversity Award established in 2002 are individuals and organizations embracing diversity in all levels of their work in aging. The 2003 recipient was the American Society on Aging's New Ventures in Leadership Program, the 2004 recipient was Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues, and in 2005 Connie Bremner, director of the Eagle Shield Senior Center on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana received the award. In 2006, Meyling Eliesh-Danesh, manager of Latino Services at the Alzheimer's Association in Los Angeles, was the award winner (GIA, 2006c).

With generous support from Atlantic Philanthropies, a pilot outreach program called engAGEment was established recently to introduce needs of older adults to grant makers and find ways to involve grant makers in funding of aging projects.

CURRENT STATE OF FOUNDATION FUNDING m AGING

Foundations awarding grants in aging include those that make awards to recipients throughout the United States, internationally, regionally, or in designated communities. …