Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Should You Pursue Their Grants?

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November 10, 2022

Last Updated:

November 9, 2022

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to supporting pioneering ideas and research initiatives to address some of the most urgent health challenges.

RWJF’s grantmaking may potentially present a good funding opportunity to strengthen your nonprofit organization’s work. However, prior to pursuing a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it is vital to understand their approach to grantmaking and to verify if their grants are high-ROI opportunities for your nonprofit.

In this article, we’ll dive deep into RWJF’s mission, vision, and grantmaking priorities, and discover surprising funding insights. We will also provide you with a comprehensive scoring system that will help you determine if the foundation is a good fit to support your organization’s work and programming.

We will also provide you with next steps to prepare a successful grant proposal, and if the funder is not a good fit, don’t fear! We will share other foundations similar to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to direct you to additional prospects that may better align with your work.

Let us begin!

The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Prospects in 7 Easy Steps

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Mission and Background

Mission

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation works to understand, identify, and dismantle structural barriers to well-being and health—including racism, powerlessness, discrimination, and their consequences.

RWJF accomplishes this by investing in research, policies, programming, and practices focused on catalyzing change, improving the lives of individuals throughout the United States for many years to come.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

In recent years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has invested in initiatives that broaden the discussion about what shapes health, equity, and well-being for all communities. The foundation’s grantmaking programs center on four core focus areas:

  • Health Systems: RWJF helps bring together numerous critical health systems around a shared goal of better health for all.
  • Healthy Communities: RWJF invests in programs and initiatives that improve conditions in communities to provide residents with the greatest potential to secure better health outcomes for individuals and families.
  • Healthy Children and Families: RWJF supports research and programs that enable children to attain optimal physical, social, and emotional well-being including addressing the occurrence of childhood obesity and ensuring parents and caregivers have the resources and tools necessary to support healthy early childhood development.
  • Leadership for Better Health: RWJF works to address the United States’ greatest health challenges by investing in leaders across sectors to ultimately build a national Culture of Health.

Each of these core focus areas drive the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s grantmaking priorities and strategies, strengthening their mission to improve the lives of individuals by building a national Culture of Health.

Criterion #1: Add a score in the range of 1-3 to indicate how closely your nonprofit’s mission aligns with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Score Explanation
+1 Add this when there is little to no understanding of the alignment between you and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
+2 Add this when there is a distant alignment between you and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation - e.g. Foundation supports a broader funding category.
+3 Add this where there is an evident close alignment between you and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation}.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: How to Apply and Active Grants

Apply

As the United States’ leading philanthropic organization addressing healthcare issues, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation consistently offers a wide array of RFPs and opportunities to support nonprofits and individuals who are working to create more equitable health systems and increase access to high-quality care.

Currently, RWJF has three active funding opportunities: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows, Evidence for Action: Innovative Research to Advance Racial Equity, and Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows is a unique program that aims to develop and maintain strong, diverse leadership and create a workforce skilled in health policy.

The fellowship is tailored to support mid-career health professionals and behavioral/social scientists, providing them with the opportunity to participate in and experience the health policy process at the federal level.

Up to six fellowship awards up to $165,000 are available for the 2023 cycle. Applicants may submit through MyRWJF, the RWJF grants portal.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellows

Evidence for Action (E4A) is a national grantmaking program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation intended to invest in research that evaluates specific interventions (e.g. policies, programs, practices) that could potentially counteract the harms of systemic racism with the intent of improving health, well-being, and equity outcomes.

The program supports research projects that evaluate the direct impacts of racism on communities of color while also analyzing the intersections of other marginalized identities and experiences, including:

  • Class and economic conditions
  • Immigration status
  • Physical and mental disability
  • Sexual orientation and gender non-conforming identities.

Applications for this grantmaking program are accepted on a rolling basis and award amounts vary from project to project. Grant periods last up to 36 months depending on the specific project.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Racism and Health

Pioneering Ideas: Exploring the Future to Build a Culture of Health seeks proposals that are aimed at influencing health equity over the long term. The program is interested in addressed four key focus areas:

  • Future of Evidence
  • Future of Social Interaction
  • Future of Food
  • Future of Work

The program is seeking transformative, unconventional ideas that could improve health equity and the well-being of generations to come. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis via the RWJF grants portal.

Visit the RWJF website for additional details and to stay up to date on all of these opportunities.

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Interesting Funder Insights

Insight

The best way to identify if the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grants are a good match for your nonprofit organization is to evaluate key information from their recently filed 990 reports.

Analyzing an organization's 990 can seem incredibly unappealing, especially for large organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Organizations’ 990 forms are dull and cumbersome tax documents and few nonprofits have the capacity to complete a comprehensive assessment of the data therein.

Luckily, Instrumentl analyzes and disseminates funders’ 990 reports into easy to understand, useful data that allows users to identify key giving trends. Instrumentl takes a look at general giving trends, giving by NTEE code, and openness to new grantees to help users understand if pursuing an opportunity will yield a high-ROI.

Let’s take a look at some of these key insights from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 990.

#1 General Giving Trends

To begin, let’s take a look at RWJF’s giving trends over the past several years. Information about a foundation’s history of giving often indicates future giving trends. This is a great place to start when identifying if a funder is a good fit for your organization!

In 2019, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation gave a total of $434,541,128.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Key Financial Stats

Over the past three years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s overall giving has increased by 2%. This increase indicates that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s capacity to give is becoming greater overtime, which is a good sign.

Criterion #2: Add 1 point to your funder score to reflect The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s positive giving trend for the last 3 years.

Score Explanation
+1 Add this since the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has had an increasing giving trend for the last 3 years.

Overall giving is only a small piece of puzzle—you will also need to look at the number of grants awarded.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Key Financial Stats

In the most recent reported year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded 3,285 grants. While it has fluctuated some, the number of grants awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has remained relatively stable throughout the years.

Average grant size can be a helpful indicator as well. Over the past three years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s average grant size has increased by 2.6%. This increase is a great sign for grantseekers.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation average grant size

Criterion #3: Add 1 point to your funder score to reflect the increase in the average grant amount given by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the past 3 years.

Score Explanation
+1 Add this when the average grant amount awarded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has increased for the past 3 years.

Instrumentl makes tracking and analyzing general giving trends a breeze!

#2 Funding by NTEE Code

Understanding if a funder has the capacity to give is one thing, but it is equally (if not moreso) important to identify a funder’s willingness to fund projects or programs that are similar to yours.

You can better understand this by evaluating a foundation’s giving based on the NTEE (National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities) code.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is specifically focused on funding health and healthcare focused work. It is important to note that the health sector is broad—taking a look at the foundation’s NTEE codes can tell you more about their investments and priorities.

According to Instrumentl’s NTEE code breakdown, over the past three years RWJF has awarded over $142,094,485 to organizations focused on Health Care specifically.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation NTEE Code Details

Reviewing NTEE subcategories is just as important to note as the broader area focuses, and they can help you determine if the amount of funding you’re looking for aligns with how the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has given in the past.

For example, within the larger category of Health Care, there are subcategories such as Alliances & Advocacy and Public Health—each with varying total award counts and median grant amounts.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation NTEE Code Details

You can get a 14-day free trial of Instrumentl to take an even deeper dive into the NTEE codes of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Now take a moment to work on your score to help you determine your alignment with RWJF.

Criterion #4: Add a score in the range of 0-2 to your funder score to indicate whether the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s funding for your niche is what you desire.

Score Explanation
0 Add this when Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's funding for your niche lies below your desired amount.
+1 Add this when Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's funding for your niche is around your desired amount.
+2 Add this when Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's funding for your niche is greater than your desired amount.

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#3 Openness to New Grantees and Average Giving Amounts

When you are approaching a new organization about an RFP or other grant opportunity it is important to understand that organization’s level of openness to new grantees.

According to trends from Instrumentl, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has a strong preference for giving to repeat grantees.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Openness to New Grantees

In 2019, the average grant size for repeat grantees was $147,000 while the average grant size for new grantees was $32,600.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Openness to New Grantees

Keep in mind that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also awards multi-year grants so some of the awards that appear in Instrumentl’s data are long-term funding arrangements.

That being said, it is still apparent that RWJF prefers to work with partners they are familiar with. As a new applicant it is a good idea to think about your network and key contacts you can potentially reach out to for an introduction to make inroads with the foundation prior to applying.

Now take a moment to work on your score to help you determine your alignment with RWJF.

Criterion #5: If you are a new grantee, add the Robert Wood Johnson’s proportion of giving to new grantees to your funder score.

If you are a repeat grantee, add the Robert Wood Johnson’s proportion of giving to repeat grantees to your funder score.

The numbers below are based on percentages of returning vs. new grantees over the last three years.

Score Explanation
0.13 Add this when you are a new grantee for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
0.87 Add this when you are a repeat grantee for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

[BONUS TIP] Geographic Distribution of Past Grantees

Before making a final decision about your organization’s alignment with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, consider the geographic distribution of the foundation’s giving. Take a look at the map below from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s profile on Instrumentl.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Geographic Distribution of Past Grantees

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses specifically on giving to organizations in the United States. Throughout the years, RWJF has taken a special interest in the state of New Jersey, where the foundation is located.

While location should be a consideration when determining your fit with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it shouldn’t be the sole deciding factor. Take into account other data and elements (e.g. openness to new grantees) when making a final decision about your compatibility with the foundation.

Criterion #6: Add a score in the range of 0-3 to your funder score to indicate whether or not your organization’s state has been historically represented.

Score Explanation
0 Add this when your state isn't historically represented - shaded in white - among past grantees.
+1 Add this when your state is sparsely represented - shaded in light purple - among past grantees.
+2 Add this when your state is represented more heavily - shaded in darker purple - among past grantees.
+3 Add this when your state is represented most heavily - shaded in darkest purple - among past grantees.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Key People and Past Grantees

Key People

If you have made your way through this post and determined the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a good fit, you are ready to take on these next steps and begin making key connections.

Get in Touch With Key People

When it comes to the nonprofit sector, it is sometimes all about who you know.

Knowing who to reach out to when you are getting started on making an ask of a new foundation can be daunting. Foundations have robust networks of executives, board members, and trustees, and it can be difficult to determine who the best individuals to reach out to are.

Luckily, Instrumentl curates this information, identifying key people from each foundation or grantmaking organization so you do not have to go through exhaustive research to identify important individuals you can potentially reach out to.

As one of the more prominent philanthropic organizations in the United States, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has an extensive number of board members, trustees, and staff. Key individuals include Board of Trustees Chair, Roger Fine, a former executive of Johnson & Johnson, and President and CEO Richard E Besser.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Key People

Due to RWJF’s preference for repeat grantees it may be a potential challenge to make inroads with the foundation as a new applicant. Tapping into your networks and seeing if you have any connections to key people at RWJF is a great way to stand out against the thousands of applicants who reach out to RWJF each year.

Contact Past Grantees

Another way to establish a relationship with RWJF and learn more about the organization is to reach out to former grantees.

Developing relationships with former award recipients can provide you with additional insight into the grantmaking process and help you determine your alignment with RWJF’s opportunities.

Take a look below at the list of RWJF’s grantees from 2019 and visit Instrumentl for a more in depth analysis.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Past Grantees

Foundations Similar to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Foundation

Now that you have taken a comprehensive look at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, you may have already come to the conclusion that it is just not the right fit for your organization or program.

Not to worry! Prospect research is as much about identifying which foundations are not a good fit as it is about finding ones that are.

Here is a list of other foundations that are similar to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for you to look into:

  • The Commonwealth Foundation
  • Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • The J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Foundation
  • The Ford Foundation
  • The Joyce Foundation
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • William T. Grant Foundation
  • The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Wrapping Up: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and YOU

Score

Now that you’ve analyzed different aspects of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation it is time to add up your score for a final assessment on your alignment with RWJF. Once you have calculated your scores from previous sessions, your total will reveal if the foundation is a great fit, good fit or a bad fit for your nonprofit.

Scoring criteria is as follows:

  • Great fit: 8.5 - 11 
  • Good fit: 3.8 - 7.8 
  • Bad fit: <= 0.8 

Be sure to round your final score to the nearest tenth!

Whether you have discovered if the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a good fit or a poor fit for your nonprofit, you are still one step closer to securing new funding for your organization.

With Instrumentl, you have access to thousands of other foundations with data that will point you in the right direction of active grant opportunities that will result in a high-ROI for your nonprofit. Visit Instrumentl’s website to start your 14-day free trial and tap into a robust compendium of foundations and grant opportunities today!

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