Resourcing Harm Reduction: A New FCAA Blog Series

Recently, FCAA released a data spotlight illustrating the intersection of HIV and people who inject drugs (PWID). Given that PWID are 22 times more likely to acquire HIV than the rest of the global population, we felt that it was important to understand where private philanthropy was supporting harm reduction programs.

As we worked with partners to analyze the data, it was clear that the numbers tell only one part of the story. We wanted to dig deeper, to understand what challenges and successes grant makers and recipients are having in funding and implementing these programs.

We invited organizations to continue this dialogue with us and the result is a new blog series we are kicking off with this introductory blog, as well as an exciting new webinar announcement: on August 15th FCAA is hosting a webinar with Grantmakers in Health and the Substance Use Disorders Funders Collaborative  that will discuss how we can apply lessons learned from the HIV epidemic to the current opioid crisis in the US. Details can be found here.

Starting next week, we will share the thoughtful and compelling feedback we’ve received on this subject from such partners as AIDS United, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Frontline AIDS, the Health Foundation of Greater IndianapolisHarm Reduction International, and the Comer Family Foundation. We also encourage you to read a follow-up piece to this series that focuses on Safehouse in Philadelphia. [To read the individual blogs, click on the links above!]

Already, we have noticed some clear through lines. Some of the things to look for when you read the series include:

  • Unsurprisingly, some private funders, seeing that harm reduction was woefully underfunded, have stepped up by making harm reduction programs and principles critical components to their grant making strategies.
  • Data plays a pivotal role in helping understand the needs of communities and the gaps in funding, and also serves as a tool to educate and advocate to potential partners and allies of the efficacy of harm reduction programs.
  • Effective programs address every need (?) of harm reduction organizations – including advocacy, direct services, and capacity building.
  • Community based approaches work best when funders work to ensure that programs are aligned both in terms of the community’s readiness and cultural values.
  • Some funders are breaking the mold of only supporting established organizations by funding promising “startup” programs that are well suited to meet community needs.
  • Funders can be more effective by pooling resources and, while there are many committed funders of this work, more must be leveraged to make a significant impact on reducing the epidemic among people who use drugs.

This is just the beginning of a much longer conversation! We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic. Is your organization doing harm reduction work? What challenges or best practices have you experienced while funding harm reduction-related efforts? Do you have a point of view that you would like to share? Please let us know.

Contact Sarah Hamilton at