Our Story

  • Our Founding

    Empire Health Foundation (EHF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit private foundation.

    We formed in 2008 through the sale of Deaconess and Valley Medical Centers, a nonprofit hospital system in Spokane serving the Inland Northwest Region. We made our first grant as part of our childhood obesity prevention initiative in 2011. Subsequent funding focused on addressing a variety of system-level issues ranging from rural aging and medication management, to strengthening families impacted by substance abuse disorders and supporting our local Tribes in addressing holistic health through traditional Native practices. 

    Over time, EHF’s work has evolved to focus more resources to support the people and communities most affected by health inequities and to change the systems most likely to keep these health inequities in place.

    EHF began with an emphasis on advancing the organization’s own bold vision for community health, coupled with an approach of funding a range of discrete programs to see what would stick. For much of its history, EHF sought “bright spots” elsewhere and applied those approaches in the Inland Northwest. Although undertaken with the best of intentions, this prescriptive, upstream system-level approach to grantmaking distanced us from supporting the critical work being done at the community level and created a mystique around our true purpose.

  • Our Journey Toward Centering Justice and Equity

    In 2020, we found ourselves at a crossroads.

    Internal reorganization coupled with the COVID-19 crisis and our region’s reckoning with longstanding systemic inequities and social vulnerabilities made clear our role as a funder should follow a new path. Over the next two years, we undertook a journey of critical self-reflection. Through hundreds of candid conversations with community partners and leaders we learned the kinds of support they need most from us — our connections, voice, knowledge, and reputation alongside the financial resources we provide. In short, a partnership built on mutual trust and collaboration. What we learned reinforced much of what we already knew to be true — that the times EHF had been most impactful in our first decade of work was when we rolled up our sleeves to walk alongside community leaders, trusting them to know best how our resources and support can reinforce their self-determined vision for a better future.

    Together as staff and board, and with input from community partners, in 2022 we developed a new set of guiding principles. Our foundational Equity Healing Framework centers the vision and energy of the people in our region who are most impacted by systemic and historic inequities and injustice.

    The community feedback that resulted in this new framework was only the beginning — it has informed our ethos and helped us pivot our approach to philanthropy. We’re moving forward now with the understanding that true sustainable health comes from within communities. From thriving families and strong social networks. From a deeper kind of healing. This healing must address historical injustices and persistent inequities. And it must lead to substantial and sustainable change. To do so, it must draw on the cultural strengths of the communities we serve.

    As a funding partner, it requires designing our investments to ignite and strengthen the backbone of community-driven efforts and restore resources to communities most impacted by injustice. As a strategic partner it means leveraging our network of intersectional relationships to build bridges across communities with the expressed needs of the communities we serve in mind — shifting our role from aspiring neutral party to convenor, to facilitator, or to witness as requested by our community partners.


    Our Equity Healing Framework

  • Charting a Course for Our Next 10 Years

    We are now at a pivotal point, transitioning from a place of reflection and analysis, to long-range planning and organizational integration.

    As we continue this shift in our evolution, we will launch a 10-year strategy in 2025 that defines both how we will put our resources to work following the lead of our community partners, and how we will hold ourselves accountable to making real progress towards our vision.  The shifts we’re making will be significant and noticeable. For many, EHF’s new approach to philanthropy may feel uncomfortable as we walk alongside historically disadvantaged communities to challenge and change power dynamics. We believe building trust within and across these spaces is critical and requires us to take informed risks as we wield our own power and privilege in a focused pursuit of uplifting community visions for change. These changes require us to build a practice of intersectional convening that supports brave spaces for addressing real challenges and conflict.

    The transformative and sustained change we seek takes time and the collective knowledge and efforts of many. Done well, it holds potential for a future where all people living in the Inland Northwest can experience health, safety and prosperity. We are committed to developing a thriving multicultural region and inspiring lasting transformations that lead to a healthier Inland Northwest.