News and Learning


Taking Stock of Three-Years of the

Healthy People Healthy Places Program


The Sewall Foundation launched the Healthy People Healthy Places program in the fall of 2014 with two categories of grants: Integration of Environment and Human Well-being (Integrated) and Improving Systems for Meeting Basic Human Needs (BHN).  This summer, staff and board began reviewing the first three years of the program, including application and funding trends and the Foundation’s ability to advance the program strategies and related commitments to learning, capacity building, and equity.  Out of this process arose a great deal of learning that warrants further consideration and prompts interim changes for 2018.
By design, the Healthy People Healthy Places grant programs are broad.  We did not want to overly limit the scope of work that could fit within the programs at the outset – allowing us to get a better sense of the work that organizations and communities are doing around the state.  This breadth provided opportunities to support, and learn from, a wide range of initiatives and also created a number of challenges for applicants and the Foundation.
For example, our review of application and funding trends reveals sizeable gaps between the number of applications that we receive and those that are funded; only 55% of Integrated and 32% of BHN requests have been funded over the course of the program. Of the proposals that are funded, many receive partial funding, which can negatively impact an organization’s ability to achieve its goals. The breadth of the program areas makes it difficult, despite our best efforts, to provide meaningful guidance to potential applicants, perpetuating a situation in which nonprofit organizations invest considerable time developing proposals with limited likelihood of success.
In short, our preliminary review surfaced a dissonance within and among our values, programming, and processes that is important to more fully explore and address.  Our program assessment work, which began this summer and will continue through the coming year, is intended to allow for better realization of the goals of the Healthy People Healthy Places program including our commitment to equity, funder-grantee relationships, learning, and capacity building – all in the context of our organizational values.
We recognize that any shifting in Foundation programs can be alarming.  We wish to stress that we are not making a wholesale shift in programming; rather we are working to refine and clarify our existing programs and improve our grant-making process.  Nonprofits and other partners have already contributed much to this process and our commitment to being informed by and learning from those working in community remains strong.

Please refer to the information below for a description of 2018 program changes.  As always, we are happy to hear from you and will do our best to keep you informed as this work evolves.

Jay, Megan, Lauress, Lisa, Tom and Laura



Please note the following changes to the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation's

Healthy People Healthy Places program


Integration of Environment and Human Well-being:  The Sewall Foundation has posted additional guidance to those seeking funding through the Integration of Environment and Human Well-being grant program. This guidance provides clarifying information on trends in our giving including areas that are more and less likely to be funded, grant award amounts, and other information that we hope will help potential applicants better determine fit with the program and size of requests. This information can be found on our Integration of Environment and Human Well-Being program page.
Improving Systems for Meeting Basic Human Needs:  To build on the work that has been successful in the past while providing the Foundation the time necessary to research and develop a clearer focus and improved process for our work in the Improving Systems for Meeting Basic Human Needs program - which sees the lowest success rate for applicants - we will be accepting applications ONLY from organizations that have previously been awarded funding through this program between 2015 and 2017.  Eligible applicants were sent an email with 2018 application instructions.
Animal Welfare & Legacy:  We do not anticipate any changes to the Foundation’s Animal Welfare and Legacy programs at this time.


Sewall Foundation Integrated Well-Being Forum
On September 18, 2105 Sewall Foundation staff and board gathered with representatives of nonprofits who recently received grants through the Healthy People Healthy Places program to discuss the inherent link between environmental and human well-being.  Read the forum agenda, Jay Espy’s opening remarks, Brad Gentry’s presentation, and a summary of the day's Discussion Themes and Learnings
The Foundation’s
 Healthy People Healthy Places Program
Click here to watch the Healthy People Healthy Places Webinar

For the past six years, the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation supported programs and organizations throughout Maine engaged in three broad categories of activity: Animal Welfare, Environment and Human Well-Being.  Beginning in 2015, the Foundation changed its approach to grant making in the areas of the Environment and Human Well-Being.  A new integrated program entitled, “Healthy People Healthy Places”,  replaced the previously separate Environment and Human Well-Being program areas.


We recognize that any time a funder modifies its priorities or changes its guidelines, many questions are likely to arise among those seeking support.  Therefore, we held a webinar, open to those seeking information about the Sewall Foundation’s new direction. Foundation staff described the Healthy People Healthy Places Program, discussed its implications for future grant making as well as non-grant related activities and answered questions.