2023 Annual Reflections

In August 2003, documents were signed establishing the REACH Healthcare Foundation. REACH’s early years were ones of forming, storming and norming as the foundation’s 27-member Board of Directors came together to formulate a vision and set a course toward greater health equity in a six-county region. Twenty years, and more than 2,000 grants later, the most diverse and equity-focused Board in REACH’s history has established itself as a champion of closing the health equity gap, bridging the coverage divide, and strengthening the safety net.  

In 2023, REACH’s 20th anniversary year, the foundation memorialized its commitment to racial equality and health equity when the Board of Directors adopted a Racial Equity Narrative statement. The statement marked the culmination of 20 months of learning and frank dialogue among our Board and staff, and was grounded in candid feedback from our grantee partners and other community stakeholders about the conditions that contribute to health disparities and persistent underinvestment in community-led initiatives.  

With that statement, REACH introduced several significant changes to its grant-making processes and strategic investments.  

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We expanded our multi-year, unrestricted Core Operating Partner portfolio to 33 critical safety net service providers, advocacy organizations, and regional planning partners, adding four of our Centering Black Voices (CBV) pilot participants to the core partner cohort. The two-year CBV pilot had expanded REACH’s awareness of the disparities in philanthropic resources available to Black nonprofit leaders and their organizations. We recognized these organizations are essential contributors to the region’s health.  

The CBV work inspired other new funding opportunities in 2023. The Rapid REACH Equity Fund, Centering Black Voices Core Consultants, and a Wellness grant opportunity designed to address burnout and stress in the health care workforce — all launched in 2023 — helped us direct resources to existing and new partners addressing social drivers of health. And knowing the resource challenges faced by rural counties, REACH dug deeper and listened harder for ways we could better partner with public health departments, school districts, mental health service providers, and grassroots organizations in the rural counties within the foundation’s service area.  

On the advocacy front, REACH doubled down on its investments and involvement in the campaign to expand Medicaid in Kansas through grants to support research, education, and communication activities as well as well as our own direct outreach to elected representatives. Partnering with health funders in Kansas and Missouri, we collaborated with state government leaders and dozens of nonprofit organizations to mitigate coverage losses resulting from the post-COVID public health emergency unwinding, a complex process that continues to affect coverage and access to health care today. We’ve tackled this particular work by supporting health navigators, assisters and other care connectors who help Kansas and Missouri consumers bridge the coverage divide, and by joining these providers in advocating for state system improvements. In addition, we repeatedly opposed attempts in both Kansas and Missouri to roll back voting rights and protections 

To leverage the foundation’s resources, REACH staff invited our nonprofit partners to use our available community space for education, professional development and planning efforts. Presented with the opportunity to weigh in on the Kansas Medicaid Managed Care program, REACH hosted a gathering of 50 health partners and state leaders to identify areas for improvement in the administration and outcomes of Kansas’s Medicaid managed care program. We continue to draw on these recommendations in our own advocacy for health equity.  

We recognize that advocacy work — like our grantmaking and all the many tools we deploy in service to our mission — is a long game, and we don’t always get it right. But when we fail, we learn, dust ourselves off, and try again. Even though political roadblocks seemingly keep some sound policy decisions out of reach, we take our cues from our partners who continue to dismantle challenges to our health, democracy, and our very future in keeping with our experience that civically engaged citizens and communities experience better health outcomes.

The REACH team ended 2023 with a sweet ray of hope and reminder of why achieving our mission is critical — a new baby was born to our team member, Jasmin Avakyants. Her son, in the words of author, educator and cultural critic Neil Postman, is “the living message we send to a time we will not see.” With the unwavering support of the REACH Board of Directors, staff, and our passionate community partners, REACH will continue to advance a vision of the world that is more just, equitable and healthier for this precious newborn and for all.  



 Brenda Sharpe, President & CEO 
Lynette Sparkman-Barnes, Psy.D., Board Chair 

2023 Community Investments

Outcome Investments & Discretionary Grants

Strengthen The Safety Net


Close the Health Equity Gap


Bridge the Coverage Divide




REACH uses a community investment framework that serves as a roadmap for grantmaking priorities. The framework is centered on three outcome areas that support equitable health outcomes. The Strong Safety Net area represents the largest portion at $2 million, with $1.6 of that total dedicated to core operating partners and other capacity building grants, including the new Rapid REACH Equity Fund. Bridge the Coverage Divide includes longstanding investments in care connectors and enrollment assisters, and grants in support of voter engagement. Within Close the Health Equity Gap, REACH supported unrestricted grants to rural public health departments in three REACH counties, a grant of $100,000 to help launch the Center for African American Health at the University of Kansas Medical Center, and the new Wellness Grants fund. 

Rapid REACH Fund Answers Need for Flexible Funding

$45,000 total
9 grants

The REACH Foundation introduced the Rapid REACH Equity Fund in 2023, awarding nine grants totaling $45,000. The fund was established to provide unrestricted funding to help smaller organizations address operational needs core to their missions. REACH’s work with Black nonprofit leaders through the Centering Black Voices pilot helped to highlight the lack of options for small grants and flexible funding for basic operational needs. The fund uses a simplified application with a short review period, prioritizing Black-, Brown-, immigrant-, refugee- and rural-serving organizations.  

Consulting Model Supports Black-Led Nonprofits

Expanding on the foundation’s Centering Black Voices investments, REACH worked with a group of locally-based technical assistance providers to create a Core Consultants Initiative — a team of highly skilled consultants available to work with Black nonprofit leaders on planning, finance, fund development and marketing and communications needs. The group of four consultants were selected based on expertise and lived experience as Black professionals. REACH established consulting agreements with the consultants to remove cost barriers for nonprofit leaders.  


Thirteen organizations were matched with consultants in 2023. Organizations requested assistance with leadership coaching, fund development, website design and branding, program planning, accounting practices, and other organizational infrastructure needs. Based on the success of the first year, REACH added a grant research and writing consultant and increased resources for the Core Consultant effort in 2024. 

“Centering Black Voices is a multifaceted initiative aimed to advance Black-led social change. REACH continues to provide general operating support and foster a growing community of practice among Black-led, black-serving organizations in the Kansas City region. We continue to be dedicated to discussing, listening, and relationship-building in our service area to gain insights into where resources are needed. REACH’s overall grantmaking strategies continue to evolve, with more focused efforts on reparative philanthropy.” 

Wellness Grants Nurture Staff Well-Being

27 Grants Totaling $125,000

Nonprofit leaders continued to share concerns about employee stress and burnout in 2023, and its impact on staff retention and well-being. To support leaders’ efforts to promote wellness and self-care, REACH introduced Wellness Grants — one-time grants of up to $5,000 to provide wellness programming, recognize and celebrate employees, and develop experiences in support of healing, rest and fun. In 2023, the foundation awarded 27 grants totaling $125,000. Applicants used the grants to provide exercise programs, nurture staff with healthy foods, offer lunch-and-learns on aspects of self-care, and team-building activities.  

REACH Policy Priorities

In 2023, REACH collaborated with advocacy and health services partners on a range of policy issues and opportunities, particularly advocacy related to Medicaid coverage. REACH partnered with the Kansas Health Institute to convene health leaders for a discussion of Kansas Medicaid Managed Care improvements. The convening was timed to contribute input to state health officials regarding the managed care contract reprocurement process — leveraging an opportunity to help inform direction of the next iteration of Kansas’s Medicaid managed care delivery. With our Kansas Grantmakers in Health colleagues, REACH supported a coordinated communications and outreach effort guided by Community Care Network of Kansas regarding the rollout of the Kansas Medicaid redetermination process.  


Working alongside dozens of health advocates and consumers, REACH continued to educate Kansas legislators about the health and economic benefits of Medicaid expansion, a policy solution that has faced legislative roadblocks in Kansas. REACH also monitored legislative efforts in Kansas and Missouri to impose restrictions on voting access. Voting rights and protections are key components of the foundation’s policy agenda. 

Meet the REACH Board

The REACH Foundation is governed by a 17-member board of directors who reside within the foundation’s six-county service area. REACH Board members bring diverse demographic and life experiences, passion for the communities where they live and work, and governance, civic, nonprofit and business expertise.