Key Points

The increasing prevalence of mental illness and addiction in the United States has drawn considerable attention from grantmakers, which could catalyze the development and delivery of innovative approaches to these complex and difficult-to-treat behavioral health disorders. Relatively little is known, however, of the perspectives of these funders on how best to undertake this work.

To assist foundations in meaningful engagement with the field of behavioral health, this article shares the responses of 17 highly experienced behavioral health grantmakers to two research questions: What are the experiences of foundations that have funded behavioral health initiatives? What issues should be considered by foundations contemplating this area of grantmaking support? Their observations led to an examination of how these foundations entered the field, the challenges and opportunities that arise in undertaking this work, and what advice they would share with grantmakers new to funding behavioral health initiatives.

The themes emerging from the interviews touch on paths to involvement in behavioral health grantmaking and to making the greatest impact, where the funders focused their efforts and challenges they encountered, and relevant practice issues. The article closes by sharing insights from experienced funders specific to grantmaking in the behavioral health space and achieving positive outcomes for those who struggle with these disorders and those are at risk.

Open Access