Promoting Quality Jobs and Quality Care for Older Adults

A shared mission is usually one of the bedrock principles of successful partnerships. But sometimes, two funders who at first blush would appear to have little in common meet at an unexpected place where their interests intersect.

For the F.B. Heron Foundation and the Hartford Foundation, that common ground was found in their shared commitment to the work of PHI, the leading authority on direct care workers.

Fact: Direct care workers account for 1 out of 3 members of the total US healthcare workforce.

Home Health Aide and Personal Care Aide rank third and forth, respectively, on the list of occupations projected to add the most new jobs by 2020. There will be a net anticipated gain of 1.6 million jobs.

PHI (Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute) works to improve the lives of direct care workers—certified nurse aides, home health aides, and personal care workers—who provide 70 to 80 percent of the paid, hands-on, long-term care for older adults in the U.S. It is a low-wage workforce, numbering more than 3 million, that recently gained minimum wage and overtime protections from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Heron Foundation, an anti-poverty philanthropy focused on job creation and better employment opportunities for the economically disadvantaged, invested $1.5 million in 2013 to help launch a five-year, $9 million “philanthropic equity” campaign. The goal is to strengthen PHI so it can secure better training, working conditions, and wages for millions of direct care workers, who in turn will be equipped to provide better care for older adults who cannot care for themselves.

(Above) Convening at Philanthropy New York hosted by the John A. Hartford, F. B. Heron, and Ford Foundations regarding the direct care work- force in the long-term-care system and the opportunities of the Philanthropic Equity Campaign. Dr. Corinne H. Rieder and partners - Steven Dawson, past PHI President and now Strategic Advisor; Jodi M. Sturgeon, President, PHI.
Panel Discussion: Carla Washington, Executive Director, Direct Care Alliance; Steve Dawson, PHI; and Clara Miller, President, F.B. Heron Foundation.

(Below) Direct care workers practice caring for clients at PHI’s new Bronx training facility.

The Hartford Foundation, acting on its belief that improving the quality of direct care jobs will improve the quality of care for older adults, committed a total of $1.6 million—$1 million immediately, with an additional $600,000 released to PHI when the campaign achieves 50 percent of its goal.

“It’s the perfect match, in terms of two very, very different foundations recognizing that their perspectives not only overlap, but really leverage each other in terms of how their investments in our work pay doubly for both the caregiving side and the low-income workforce side,” says Jodi M. Sturgeon, PHI’s President.

Hartford had previously partnered with The Atlantic Philanthropies in 2006 to fund a PHI program that provides training to nursing homes and home health agencies nationwide, so they can then train their supervisors to coach and work more effectively with direct care staff. After that initial four-year grant, Hartford continued to support PHI’s work for another two years, during the severe economic downturn, before agreeing to co-lead the current campaign.

Heron, meanwhile, has embarked on a different path by combining its grantmaking and investing and focusing its efforts on jobs. “We consider everything we have to be mission-oriented assets,” Heron President Clara Miller says.

PHI is one of the poster children for what we’re trying to do. They often say ‘We’re raising floors and building ladders.’ We find the work PHI does to be super inspiring in many ways.” Clara Miller
The F.B. Heron Foundation

Nonprofit organizations don’t have access to equity investments and usually need to run operating deficits to build their businesses, Ms. Miller says. With the “philanthropic equity” campaign, she explains, Heron and those who support the campaign are investing the money PHI needs to grow. The “mission return” will be more good jobs that have a multiplying effect
on the economy, while providing needed services for older adults.

Ms. Sturgeon says that both partners are vital to PHI achieving its twin goals of “quality jobs, quality care.”

“It’s really important to have the support of Heron, which understands that we have to raise the floor on these jobs to have a thoughtful low-wage workforce strategy, and at the same time to have the support of Hartford, which understands that the quality of these jobs has a great impact on the quality of care for elders,” Ms. Sturgeon says.

“Billions and billions of dollars are publicly spent on this frontline workforce, and yet, for lots of different reasons, the system doesn’t really pay attention to the workforce and doesn’t take advantage of the investment it’s making.”

Thanks to the very different missions of the Heron and Hartford Foundations, one day that may change.

28 of 29