Let’s Get to Know Each Other

Elizabeth Ripley, President and Chief Executive Officer

Welcome to our new blog! Here we will update you with the latest information about the work of the Mat-Su Health Foundation (MSHF) as well as bring you guest bloggers to share their stories. Some of the guests will be grantees and community members, and some will be MSHF staff. Topics will vary, but all will offer insight into how we are partnering with the community to achieve the Foundation’s mission: To improve the health and wellness of Alaskans living in the Mat-Su.

In this post I’d like to address two questions we often hear about the Foundation: “Where does the money come from?” and “How does the Mat-Su Health Foundation choose who to award grants to?”

Where do we get our money? MSHF owns one-third of Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. We also seat half of the hospital’s operating board. Our ownership gives us one-third of the hospital’s profits, and our oversight responsibilities give us the opportunity to ensure that the hospital is meeting the needs of our fast-growing community. Occasionally someone asks me if hospital pricing would be lower if it did not have to give one-third of the profit to the Foundation. The answer is simple: no. Mat-Su Regional Medical Center is a for-profit entity that is part of a large national hospital chain. The profit that stays in our community today and funds so many worthy nonprofits would go to their corporate headquarters out of state and shareholders if not to the Foundation.

How do we decide who gets a grant? We have a team of talented, data-driven Programs Officers who review each grant application and perform appropriate due diligence. Among the things they examine are the sustainability of the organization, community need for the services they provide, and a commitment to serving all residents in an equitable way. Smaller grant requests may be approved by the Vice President of Programs and myself. For larger grant requests, the Program Team makes recommendations to our Board of Directors Program Committee. The committee reviews the applications and staff recommendations, votes on whether to approve the grants, and then presents the approved grants to the full Board of Directors for a final decision. At every step of the way, all reviewers rely on data, such as the Community Health Needs Assessment we complete every three years. There is no social agenda nor is there any political ideology at play during the review and approval process. We have always been, and always will be, focused on the vision of a community where all people have the opportunity for a healthy life. We have a searchable grants database at healthymatsu.org where anyone interested can review every grant the Foundation has made.

The $106 million we have awarded in grants, sponsorships, and scholarships since 2008 is impactful not because of the dollars invested, but because of the dedicated and compassionate people who work for the organizations that receive the grant funds and the scholarship recipients who have committed to careers in health and wellness. The Mat-Su Health Foundation serves as a convener and funder, but we recognize that it is the social services providers and medical professionals in our community who do the heavy lifting and we appreciate them.

Elizabeth Ripley
President and CEO