In 1999 funders fragmented by health or environmental interests connected over shared concerns that pollutants were harming people, wildlife, and ecosystems.  HEFN was created to help funders connect, learn, and build philanthropy for an environmental health movement.

From 1999-2009, HEFN was based at the Consultative Group on Biological Diversity (now the Biodiversity Funders Group) and often partnered with other funder groups as it grew its funder community, their investments, and impact.  By its 10th anniversary, more than 250 grantmakers were participating. Funders had collaborated to catalyze major campaigns on toxics and antibiotic resistance, rapid response to communities affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and heightened attention to racial and gender equity.  Environmental health and justice grantmaking had expanded to over $65 million annually, enabling dramatic field growth, including in science, advocacy, and organizing.  Read more about HEFN's first decade of work.

In 2010 HEFN moved to more independent operations as a joint plan of work of Virginia Organizing.  In 2012 HEFN launched a membership structure, a blog, Giving Insight, and a social media presence on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.   

Between 2010-2015, the network provided a platform for funder learning and action on a growing array of issues. 

Funders concerned about impacts of fracking launched a HEFN working group in 2011,  complementing member collaboration on toxics and on community-focused environmental health and justice work. HEFN supported philanthropic attention to emerging environmental health and justice concerns, including from the 2010 Deep Horizon oil spill; the 2014 West Virginia chemical spill; Flint, Michigan's water contamination; and health and equity impacts of climate change.  In 2015 HEFN launched philanthropic email groups on drinking water and on climate, health and equity issues.  By 2016, members were investing millions of dollars annually in environmental health and justice work.   

In 2016, HEFN committed itself to a new, ten-year strategic direction.  The network pivoted around a new mission of mobilizing philanthropy to accelerate solutions for environmental health and justice.  The network committed to ambitious goals for expanding investments in this field, including by increasing giving to organizations serving communities most impacted by environmental health and justice problems.

Since 2016, HEFN has continued to serve and expand the learning community of funders investing at the intersections of health, environment, and equity interests.  The network built capacity of staff, members, and leaders as champions of racial and gender equity.  It supported philanthropic  collaboration on critical issues, within and beyond HEFN's membership in partnership with other philanthropy-serving-organizations (PSOs).  In 2018 the working group on fracking evolved into a new Past Petro group.  In 2019 HEFN became home base for a new Lead Funders Action Network, as well as forging partnerships across numerous PSOs to expand investment in those most impacted by climate change.

Read more about the HEFN community's work to build power for environmental health and justice.   



Stay Informed