Chapter 10. Financing and Funding Opportunities and Strategies

Chapter Description

This chapter provides an overview of potential financing and funding opportunities for community-based oral health coalitions and programs and then links to specific funders and examples of funded programs. Tips and worksheets on grantwriting and other methods of fundraising are included. Issues around creating sustainable programs are addressed.

Chapter Overview

A common mistake that groups make when trying to solve an oral health problem is to think that money, usually in the form of a grant, will solve the problem and magically create a program. A second mistake is to think you're saving time by hiring a grantwriter who knows little about the problem, proposed project or the local community. A third mistake is to expect to secure funding based on a grant application that includes a great deal of rhetoric about the need for a program, but only vague descriptions about what the proposed program is, what it will cost, and what the anticipated outcomes will be. A fourth mistake is to express outrage when your grant application is not funded, and then send the same grant application to three more foundations!

Want to avoid these mistakes? Use the tools and tips in this chapter and in previous chapters to plan a cohesive approach to program planning and fundraising.

Self-Assessment: Financing and Funding

Chapter 2 provided an overview of several types of resources you might need. In the assessment process, you probably identified what resources can be obtained within the community through creative partnering, and what will require outside funding. How much do you already know about sources for funding or financing community-based programs? Do you know which organizations/agencies provide grant opportunities? What are other fundraising strategies? How can you take advantage of reimbursement for clinical services, education or administrative functions? Use the Financing and Funding Self-Assessment to determine what knowledge and resources you already have.

Creating a Funding Plan

Fundraising requires good networking, personal relationships, communication, marketing, investing, perseverance, patience and planning. To be successful, people need to be passionate about the cause, persuasive, proactive, assertive and persistent. Fundraising efforts can easily bog down in the daily realities of running an organization or conducting oral health activities. Fundraising requires a great deal of time and effort on a daily basis and a team of people, not just one person acting as a fundraiser.


Fundraising needs to be planned and purposeful-guided by a roadmap of where you want to be, by when, and how you plan to get there. The goal is to create sustainability so that programs function long enough to have an impact on the community's oral health and are not severely compromised when funding shortages occur.


The key to sustainability is to not put all your eggs in one basket. Programs that rely solely on one grant source are at major risk of dying when that funding dries up. Try to create a mix of funding that will sustain basic operations, allow expansion of activities, and generate sufficient cash flow to maintain smooth program operations. Relying solely on grants or on contracts based on completion of deliverables may result in periods of zero cash flow. Some funders may take months before making a decision to fund your program, and then there may be a delay in dispersing funds or a reduction in funding levels. Organizations can't afford to just "sit, hope and wait" for these funds to appear. Funders also want to be assured that they are contributing to an organization that is fiscally responsible and has a financial plan that is followed.

When putting together a funding plan, think about how your fundraising efforts are tied together. Are they for one-time expenditures or recurring needs? Do you all of a sudden have brand new dental equipment but no clinic space? A new mobile van with staff but no dental providers? Providers but an inadequate system for billing and collecting payments? Not enough cash flow to purchase disposable products or repair dental equipment? Fragmented attempts at grantwriting will create such situations.

Once funding is received, review your plan periodically and create reports to show the mix of resources and how you are maximizing those resources. Show how the funding has made a difference in the lives of people in the community. Reports are a form of marketing and are important not just to funders but also to individual donors and others who support your programs.

Locating Potential Funding Opportunities

Who are the grantmakers? (The link provides a description of 5 categories: government, private foundations, corporate grantmakers, community foundations and public charities.) Today the most timely and efficient way to research funding opportunities is through Internet search engines. Try to be fairly specific in your search, e.g., "health funding," but not overly restrictive-"funding for dental sealants"-as most funders will not be this specific in their funding descriptions. You might want to search by geographic location such as "community foundations in Northern California" or "funding for rural health programs."

Some agencies regularly post a list of new and continuing funding opportunities, usually with brief descriptions and links to the funding source's website if it is different from their own. Examples include:

  • The Foundation Center: (search by state or type of funding source).
  • Rural Assistance Center: provides resources for health and human services, including funding opportunities.
  • California Rural Health Policy Council: lists local, state, regional and national funding opportunities.
  • The Rural Health Advocate:, an online newsletter, lists grant and research opportunities.
  • Rural Health Services Funding: A Resources Guide:
  • Check in your community to see if any groups regularly monitor the Federal Register (; they might be willing to alert you to potential opportunities if they know your interests.
  • Some listservs will alert members to funding opportunities, e.g., the dental public health listserv (subscription information at, click on "links").
  • Foundations and government agencies regularly post new grant opportunities on their websites. Bookmark the ones that are most likely to match your needs and check them at least once a month.
  • County First 5 commissions and the state First 5 Commission post Requests for Proposals (RFPs) on a periodic basis for minigrants, statewide initiatives, insurance demonstrations or other funding opportunities (access the county websites through the state commission website at An April 2004 survey of 17 county oral health initiatives of $100,000 or more (not counting fluoridation) showed the following types of health health projects: 76% for direct dental services, 58% for consumer education, 41% for provider education, and 29% other (e.g., case management, home visits, screenings.) More than half of these programs were in rural counties.
  • The US government has established a website for information and applications for all Federal grant programs (
  • Other funding resources are listed in the Resources section.

  Examples of California Foundations

The Health Trust-Santa Clara (
California Wellness Foundation (
The California Endowment (
David and Lucille Packard Foundation (
William T Grant Foundation (
Sierra Health Foundation (
CDA Foundation (
N. California Grantmakers (
S. California Assoc for Philanthrophy (
San Diego Grantmakers (


The foundations listed in the box target a fairly wide geographic area or comprise a group of philanthropists. In addition, a number of community foundations provide grants to a specific area such as a city or county. A descriptive list of community foundations with website links can be accessed through the Foundation Center website. Community foundations are more willing to provide funding for small rural community-based projects. Check their individual websites to view lists of projects they have funded.

The following organizations or agencies have already funded oral health projects for stand-alone or collaborative oral health projects. Funding may not be available every year as priorities shift, but reviewing lists of previously funded projects may give you ideas for types of projects you might want to undertake.

Federal Opportunities

The application process for federal grants is usually more formal and complex than for most foundation grants. Most use the PHS 5161-1 grant application form, so become very familiar with the correct way to complete it; download from

  • The HRSA Bureau of Primary Health Care ( provides funding for community/migrant/homeless health center clinics, the Community Access Program (CAP), and Healthy Schools/Healthy Communities Program.

  • HRSA's Office of Rural Health provides funding to counties through a Rural Health Outreach Grant Program to "encourage the development of new and innovative health care delivery systems in rural communities that lack essential health care services." They require a focus on direct services through networks of at least two partners. Check their website for eligibility and a list of funded projects (

  • HRSA's Maternal and Child Health Bureau offers a number of funding opportunities to states and communities for oral health programs through the state Title V Block Grant, Healthy Tomorrows grants and other initiatives. Check their website at

  • The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) provides discretionary grants through an RFP process. ACF recently funded three oral health projects and also support minigrants to states for Head Start oral health forums through the Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors. View the ACF website at

California and National Foundations

These are only selected examples of recent initiatives (some of the websites are listed on pg 3).

  • The California Endowment has at least two mechanisms that may be used for oral health projects. Communities First focuses on access, health and well being, and multicultural health; there are no specific proposal deadlines, and multi-year funding is available. The Local Opportunities Fund provides grants of up to $50,000 for a maximum of 18 months that address a locally defined need. Grants can provide support for pilot projects, start-up or expansion of programs, core operating support, capacity-building or planning. Funds can be used for direct services, community organizing, education and information dissemination, using technology or media, and training. Check their website for specific funding cycle deadlines.

  • The California Wellness Foundation provides funds for projects and for core operating support for health promotion/disease prevention activities in eight priority areas, as well as a special projects fund. Funding can be used for salaries, operating expenses, strategic planning or board development. Funding has been used in the past for community water fluoridation infrastructure.

  • Sierra Health Foundation has a brightSmiles initiative, with 15 grantees receiving funding for projects in 1999 and 2000, and some funding being given for community water fluoridation. Check their website for a list of funded projects and current updates at

  • Through their Local Initiative Funding Partners program, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partners with local grantmakers to support innovative, community-based projects to improve health and health care for vulnerable populations. Grants are $100,000-$500,000 per project over a 3-4 year period, which must be matched dollar-for- dollar by local grantmakers. See

  • The California Dental Association Foundation, in cooperation with the Henry Schein Cares Program, provides funding once a year to non-profit organizations for dental equipment and supplies. Funding is $5,000-$25,000 per year for two years. Recipients pay shipping costs. In 2003, four organizations received funding out of 72 applications. In addition, The Healthy Californians Grant Program provides financial grants of up to $25,000 to nonprofit organizations and clinics that address one or more of the following objectives:

  • Access to care: programs that increase access to oral health care, particularly for the underserved, including children, their caregivers, and the elderly
  • Prevention education/intervention: programs that promote oral health, disease prevention and risk assessment
  • Treatment programs: nonprofit organizations and clinics providing
    direct oral health treatment services.
  • View their website at

  • Delta Dental Plan of California has signed contracts with California's Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (MRMIB) to fund more than 35 dental projects. One contract is for the 3-year Oral Health Demonstration Project, which funds projects for 0-5-year-olds in 16 counties. The second project is a Rural Health Demonstration Project that funds 20 community-based clinics and non-profits serving rural areas and special populations (children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, fishing and forestry workers, and Native Americans.) Download descriptions of all projects at

Other Funding Opportunities

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics provides CATCH Planning Fund grants for pediatricians to plan "innovative, community-based child health initiatives that will ensure that all children, especially underserved children, have medical homes and access to health care services." This includes access to oral health services and dental homes. Annual grants are for a maximum of $10,000. Extensive technical assistance can be received from the chapter AAP CATCH facilitator prior to submission of the proposal (

  • Some faith-based groups (e.g., United Ministries in Missouri) and service organizations (e.g., Grottos of North America) provide funding for dental programs or dental care.

  • The American Dental Association Foundation offers small grants of up to $5,000 for community-based non-profit oral health promotion programs through their Samuel Harris Fund for Children's Dental Health (
  • The Hospital Community Benefit Program (HCBP) resulted from legislation passed in 1994 (SB 697). Private not-for-profit hospitals "assume a social obligation to provide community benefits in the public interest in exchange for their tax-exempt status." They are required to 1) conduct a community needs assessment every three years, 2) develop a community benefit plan in consultation with the community, and 3) annually submit a copy of its plan to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) Funding may be given to various local projects or programs to meet these obligations.
  • The California Children's Dental Disease Prevention Program's_Dental/index.htm provides funding to local agencies for school-based oral health programs that can include preschool-age children. New three-year grants were just awarded. Check the website for updates, lists of grantee and funding opportunities for new programs.
  • Through the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program ( or the Maternal and Child Health Branch (, local health department MCH or CHDP programs or others can have local funds matched by the State at a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio (depending on the type of personnel) for dental-related activities, including case management for Medi-Cal clients.

  • Two options are available through California Dept of Health Services, Medical Care Services:
    1. Local Educational Agency (LEA) Medi-Cal Billing Options allow LEAs to become Medi-Cal providers and bill the Medi-Cal program for health services provided by the health care professionals they employ, and by the schools to get reimbursed for case management and dental screening for Medi-Cal children.
    2. Targeted Case Management (TCM) Programs allow Local Governmental Agencies (LGAs) to provide case management services to Medi-Cal eligible individuals in a defined target population to gain access to needed medical/dental, social, educational and other services. TCM services include needs assessment, consultation, and assistance in obtaining needed services. See .
    3. Other opportunities for using Medicaid funding can be found at

Securing Funding Through Grants

When should you join with others to raise funds versus trying to do it yourself? In rural areas where populations are scarce and there may be limited resources to actively pursue grantwriting or fundraising, it might be advantageous to work collaboratively with others in a joint proposal or ask to be included in a broader grant application. Applications from individual organizations are best when trying to start local coalitions or projects, especially when doing pilot projects to generate more community support and address local needs, e.g., trying to involve local dental providers in a project, or local case management for dental care. A regional approach is good if 1) there are limited numbers of children in a community and larger numbers are needed to show an impact, 2) communities can agree on regional goals and activities that also meet local needs, 3) there is an organization that can serve as a fiscal agent, 4) communities are willing to commit and share resources in a collaborative manner.

Including oral health projects as part of a broader initiative may be advantageous when funds for oral health programs are limited, and when additional resources are available through other project components. Examples of potential areas for oral health involvement are provided for those areas that are listed in the box.

Avenues for Oral Health Involvement
School readiness   Nutrition
Childcare   Caregiver tobacco use
Diabetes prevention   Obesity prevention
Well child care   Parenting programs
ESL programs   Literacy programs
Injury prevention   HIV/AIDS projects
Community health centers   Information/referral
Family resource centers  
Early Head Start/Head Start   Prenatal/perinatal programs

Is Grantwriting Worth the Effort?

It is important to estimate how much effort and what resources are needed to write and administer a grant versus how much funding the grant will generate. Is it worth writing a grant for $5,000 for some small part of a pilot project or portable equipment, or do you really need $100,000 over a three-year period of time to accomplish your goals? Review the following tips on grantwriting.



  • Don't just write a grant because you see that money is available. The funding needs to be a good match with your organization's mission, needs and current resources.
  • Don't be over-ambitious and ask for more than is needed, only to find you can't spend it all. Don't try to pursue too much with limited resources. This gives the impression of fiscal irresponsibility and poor planning and reduces your chances for future funding.
  • If certain factors can affect your ability to expend funds, indicate this in the application and show how you will shift funds to another activity or compensate in other ways. This shows that you're aware of what sometimes are unpredictable and unavoidable environmental and economic shifts, and you have thought about contingencies.
  • Make sure you have an efficient way to accurately track expenditures by budget category and line items, and that funds can be tracked separately from other organizational funds.

    Tips for Writing Successful Grants

    Grantsmanship is the art of writing to market ideas. Therefore, it is important to involve people with these skills. Numerous agencies provide courses and tutorials on grantwriting; some are specific to their own grantmaking efforts. Examples are listed in the Resources section. The following tips cover steps in the grantwriting/submission process as well as formatting.

    "There is a simple way to package information that, under the right circumstances, can make it irresistible. All you have to do is find it"

    M Gladwell. The Tipping Point, 2000


  • Many funders will first ask for a letter of intent to respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP) or to introduce a proposal idea (in the case of an unsolicited proposal.) This letter may only consist of a few sentences or may need to be an overview of your project and budgetary needs. The funder's guidance will specify how extensive the letter should be. Letters of intent 1) allow the funder to screen any applicants who might be ineligible or who have ideas that don't fit with their funding priorities, 2) help them plan for the number of reviewers needed and the amount of time needed to perform the review, and 3) avoid having people as reviewers who have close ties to organizations that are submitting proposals.

    Basic Elements of a Proposal

    Executive Summary/Abstract
    Statement of Need
    Program Plan

    • Goals and objectives
    • Methods and timelines
    • Staffing
    • Evaluation
      Budget and Budget Justification
      Organizational Description
      Summary or Conclusion

    • Most funders, but especially government agencies, will require a specific proposal format that includes page limitations, font and other formatting conventions. For those funders who don't use a specific format, a suggested format is provided in the box. Sequencing of headings may vary slightly.
    • Have more than one person read the RFP or grant guidance directions, and highlight the key steps, words and dates. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS EXACTLY. Don't get overly creative with the format unless it is within the proscribed framework.
    • Grantwriting will not be successful unless the grant proposal is written by a GOOD WRITER, (or at least edited by a good editor)--someone who can write in a clear, consistent, concise, organized and interesting manner. Remember-you are writing primarily for reviewers who probably don't have a dental background and may not be aware of oral health issues and concepts. You need to paint a picture and put a face on the issue.
    • Make sure objectives, plans and activities are consistent throughout the narrative and are reflected in the budget items. For example, don't schedule a two-day conference and forget to discuss lodging for participants or matching funds for items not covered by the funder such as food and beverage functions. Include everything that is required and use the correct form, e.g., federal grants make a distinction between construction projects and non-construction projects and have separate budget forms.
    • Get realistic estimates for budget items, especially in the quantity you need. Budget justifications are a major component of many grants and usually are not well done. Your rationale for requesting funding should not just be "because we need it." Tell the funder what the budget item will be used for, why it is needed and how you determined the quantity and cost.
    • Don't "pad" the grant or appendices with extraneous information just to make it look larger. "More is not better."
    • Include letters of support that are specific to your project and that include details about what type of support the writer is offering, e.g., free marketing, reduced fees, staff time. View a request for letters of support and an example of a good support letter.
    • Don't let a great grant proposal be ruined by a secretary who 1) makes numerous spelling and other typographical errors during word processing, 2) leaves out pages when copying, or 3) assembles pages in the wrong sequence. Have more than one person proof the grant, more than once, and make sure all appendices are included. Reviewers will not be forgiving! Remember-the principal investigator or project director is ultimately responsible for how the grant is submitted.
    • Try to submit the grant well before the deadline, and use an overnight mail service or hand deliver it if the funder's office is nearby. Most funders will not accept proposals that arrive even a half-day late. Assume that anything can go wrong, and plan accordingly-- the Fed Ex truck doesn't show up; you have a flat tire on the way to the post office; the envelope gets lost on someone's desk!

    Other Types of Fundraising

    Individual donors or business donors

    Sample fundraising letters and tips are included in the ADA manuals Obtaining Funding for Dental Access Programs: An Overview and Meeting the Match: A Guide to Fundraising that are listed in the Resources section.

    Local dental professional societies

    Dental, dental hygiene, dental assisting and dental auxiliary (dental spouses) societies can be good sources of monetary or other support for local programs. Unfortunately, in rural areas, local societies may not exist, with professionals only being active in broader regional groups.

    Special events

    Special events are a good way to establish some immediate cash flow and involve the local community. If you're trying to raise money for Head Start oral health programs, then involve the staff of the programs and the parents of the children. Events can include auctions, raffles, yard or book sales, car washes-any creative activity that might raise money for your programs. Two cautions: don't use unhealthy promotions such as cookie sales, and don't get sidetracked by focusing a lot of efforts on these activities at the expense of generating more long-term funding.

    Clinical income

    Establishing a reliable source of clinical income is difficult when developing programs for uninsured or underserved populations. Most reimbursements from public financing programs such as Medi-Cal often do not come close to covering the expenses of providing the clinical service. An online resource that discusses clinical income and uses an interactive spreadsheet to balance income needs and sources is available at (Chapter 3.) Although it was developed for fixed clinic sites, portions are applicable to any clinical program.

    Advocacy for Oral Health Funding

    Sometimes professionals or community members will be asked by foundations or governments to provide suggestions for areas where there are gaps in research, programs or funding. This is a perfect opportunity to provide input about the needs of rural communities. Repeated advocacy from First 5 counties, dental organizations and individuals led to the First 5 Children's Oral Health Initiative that was funded in 2004. Discussions about oral health and access to dental care with legislators and members of city councils or county commissions will help raise awareness of the needs and help these officials learn about experts and resources that they can tap into for more information. See Chapter 9 for more information about advocacy and oral health policy development.


    • American Dental Association. Obtaining Funding for Dental Access Programs: An Overview (2001) provides a basic step-by-step approach to developing dental access programs, preparing for funding, identifying funding sources, asking for money, and keeping records. It can be ordered through the ADA website (
    • Volunteers in Health Care provides two tipsheets on fundraising:

        - A Fund Raiser's Panacea: Easy Does It
        - Eight Tips to Involve Your Board in Fund Raising
        They can be accessed at

    • Meeting the Match: A Guide to Fundraising. This is a very extensive "how to"manual that contains chapters on corporate funding, foundations, government grants, individual donors, other donors, how to develop a fundraising plan and approach donors. An extensive appendix contains worksheets, templates and other useful resources. It was developed to help organizations meet the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's match requirement.
    • The Foundation Center ( provides free training courses and online courses through their virtual classroom. They also have reading lists.
    • Certain organizations support the work of non-profits and community organizations. Two that might be helpful include:

        - The Center for Excellence in Nonprofits (San Jose) (
        Center for Nonprofit Management (


    This chapter asked you to complete a self-assessment of potential funding opportunities and reimbursement strategies for clinical services. You learned the importance of creating a fundraising plan that includes a mix of resources, and investigated information about a number of these resources. Grantwriting tips hopefully will help you be more successful in your fundraising efforts.


    What did you learn or accomplish as a result of reading this chapter? Did it help you to organize your thoughts about how to create a fundraising plan? Were the resources and examples helpful? Complete the feedback form for Chapter 10 and tell us what was useful and not useful for you.