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Mindful Philanthropy

This article is one in a series spotlighting the co-signers of our 2020 Declaration of Racism as a Mental Health Crisis. Throughout the series we will be looking at the ways they are working to eliminate barriers and achieve mental health equity.

The Hogg Foundation’s 2020 public pronouncement of racism as a mental health crisis took a critical step forward in acknowledging the detrimental effects of racism on mental well-being. In it we assert that racism impacts not only the health of the social environment but also the personal health of people of color.

Imposing a chronic psychological burden on individuals, racism causes trauma. Research shows that ongoing exposure to discrimination, microaggressions, and structural injustices leads to increased levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. Additionally, ongoing oppression throughout history has led to intergenerational trauma within BIPOC communities, resulting in chronic mental health challenges across generations.  

The Hogg Foundation and the co-signers of our Declaration of Racism as a Mental Health Crisis commit to moving forward in combatting this crisis through transformative action. 

In this article we’re spotlighting the work of Mindful Philanthropy. Founded in 2020 with the core mission of catalyzing greater impactful philanthropic giving for mental health, addiction, and well-being, Mindful Philanthropy envisions a future in which all philanthropy integrates mental health into their priorities, mission, and programming. 

The Need  

Mindful Philanthropy orients all its work around a central question: How can philanthropy have the greatest impact and do the greatest good around issues of mental health, addiction, and well-being?  

Ensuring that the impact is equitable has been a core value of the organization from the beginning. 

“We found that the disparities across outcomes within the mental health space were a huge priority and needed to be uplifted so that we could focus on those who have the least access.” says Kristen Ward, Director of Programs and Knowledge. 

The Strategy 

To this end, Mindful Philanthropy builds bridges – bridges of learning, collaboration, and support between funders and the people and programs making an impact in the fields of mental health, addiction, and well-being. 

“We work with philanthropic organizations of all shapes and sizes, from individuals to corporate foundations,” says Kristen. “We help them identify investment opportunities that reinforce mental health in their strategy and their portfolio.” 

Their guidance includes three key components: helping funders increase their knowledge of mental health and well-being, identifying investments that align with funders’ priorities and values, and uplifting proven and promising opportunities by introducing funders to nonprofits not widely known. 

As of 2022, Mindful Philanthropy has guided $100M into the field of mental health. 

The Community 

Highlighting Mindful Philanthropy’s commitment to equity is their work to help philanthropy understand the value of community-led approaches and apply that understanding in their funding. 

Valuing community leadership is essential to building trust, says Kristen. “Trust is bi-directional. Communities aren’t always going to trust us, especially given the power structures and dynamics of philanthropy to this point. We want funders to think about how to build communities’ trust in them.” 

The organization’s recent publication, For the Community, By the Community: How Philanthropy Can Support Culturally-Led Mental Health Programs offers specific guidance that prioritizes cultural grounding, community leadership, historical perspective, culturally influenced health-promoting practices, and evaluation informed by community voices and experiences. 

Funders are becoming more receptive to community-led programs, says Kristen. For many, a common reaction is ‘it’s about time.’ 

The Vision 

Mindful Philanthropy continues to look ahead strategically. 

“We’re thinking about what it would look like to apply this work at the systems level,” says Kristen. “How do we bring together community-driven work and systems-level work and meet in the middle?” 

She is also encouraged by a growing cultural understanding that mental health should be treated no differently than any other health issue. 

“I think we are on the cusp of that realization, especially as we think about racial justice and racial equity in the context of health.” 


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