Who We AreOur Contributions: Bridges Grants

Our Contributions: Bridges Grants


In 2005 the health care safety net in Kansas was struggling to meet the needs of the uninsured and underinsured. Community clinics had long waiting periods for appointments, too few clinicians and limited health services to meet the needs of growing patient populations. At the time, the Sunflower Foundation was just beginning its work in health care access and was exploring ways to be catalytic in its grantmaking.

The Bridge Grant program, launched as a pilot initiative in 2005, today represents the most significant grantmaking the Sunflower Foundation has done since its beginning in 2000.

The concept of a “bridge” seemed the perfect solution for helping providers share costs until the clinic or service was able to be self-sustaining through revenues and other means of financial support.

Bridge Grants, targeted to safety net providers, helped fund primary care clinicians such as doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, psychologists and social workers who were part of new or expanded services. The grants also required substantial investment by the grantee and a business plan demonstrating financial sustainability by the end of the grant period. Most importantly, funding was available for up to three years to assure success over the long run.

The Bridge Grant program became a win for all involved. The health care practices expanded services, patients received needed care, often in a more convenient and timely manner, and Sunflower Foundation found an effective strategy to improve access to health care.

In 2011, the foundation conducted an evaluation of its Bridge Grant program.  Over a seven-year period, the foundation awarded $9 million in grants to 50+ organizations in more than 30 communities.  The diversity of grantees ranged from rural health clinics to large community health centers.  Besides hiring and retaining new clinical staff, the grants provided substantial financial benefits for the grantee organizations, helping to leverage a total of $34.6 million in services.

The Bridge Grant program represents the highest proportion of the foundation’s giving and also the best return on investment of any of our programs to date.

Highlights of Our Contributions

Cover photo: An aerial photo of Menninger Hill in Topeka, Kansas. The Sunflower Foundation will relocate to Menninger Hill in late 2020. Our home will be located directly south of the Tower Building (pictured in this report).