March 2021—
1:00 pm—2:00 pm

This is a series of funder-only online discussions. After you click the Register button, you'll have an opportunity to sign up for the sessions you want to join.

February 17 | 1-2:30 p.m. ET
March 17 | 1-2 p.m. ET
April 21 | 1-2:30 p.m.
May 19 | 1-2 p.m. ET
June 16 | 1-2:30 p.m. ET

Our 2021 Media Impact Forum will focus on evidence-based communications through one online discussion a month from February to June.

Rationale & Context

Last year (isn’t it nice we can finally say that?), we kicked off our 2020 Media Impact Forum with a discussion on the origins of COVID-19 and the danger of animal-borne infectious diseases. We presented that discussion as a case study for understanding the need for evidence-based communications—a topic of increased interest to a growing number of funders who are recognizing the need to communicate more effectively around science.

During that discussion, David Quammen, authoritative author of “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic,” warned us: “We have a crisis going on that is probably bigger than the COVID crisis. And that’s the crisis threatening our democratic institutions. Some people who have been disempowered, who have been left behind economically, have turned their anger and resentment into a great appetite for stories that appeal to them that are unsupported by fact, that are unsupported by science.”

Now, a year into the pandemic, MIF is set to kick off the 2021 Media Impact Forum with another, perhaps more urgent, case study for supporting evidence-based communications: vaccine hesitancy. Experts estimate that herd immunity will require 85% of the population to take the vaccine. But nearly 40% of Americans say they are not likely to take it.

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, we’ll hear from Ann Christiano, director of the University of Florida’s Center for Public Interest Communications, on its new “Guide to COVID-19 Vaccine Communications,” which outlines eight principles for building trust through effective and strategic communications.

Fake health news is a serious challenge for funders of media and journalism, one that they must face head-on as we continue to navigate our way out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inaccurate or false information about disease and medicines travels across social media platforms far faster than fully researched, referenced information, presenting fresh challenges for philanthropy at a time when trust in news is so low.

We will continue our programming with examples of what initiatives funders are supporting right now, including funder collaborations that serve to amplify this important work. Stay tuned for more information on the rest of the sessions.

With that context, we hope you’ll join us for our upcoming Media Impact Forum, our annual gathering of funders who support media in the public interest. It’ll look a bit different, of course: We’ll host one online discussion on the third Wednesday of every month from February to June. We hope this pace of programming works for you and doesn’t add to your Zoom fatigue. We see this series of conversations focusing on evidence-based communications as a chance for you to come together with your peers, deepen learning, and help strengthen our funding community for the work that lies ahead.

What You’ll Learn

  • The latest research behind communicating effectively about vaccines to diverse communities
  • How your funding peers are supporting work that strengthens evidence-based communications activities
  • Important collaborations in the field and opportunities to strengthen connections


Date: Wednesday, Feb. 17 | 1-2:30 p.m. ET
Session 1: Addressing vaccine hesitancy

Session 1 has concluded, but you can catch the recording.

Date: Wednesday, Mar. 17 | 1-2:00 p.m. ET
Session 2: Mastering the vaccine messaging: Funder strategies & collaborations

This session is co-hosted with Grantmakers In Health.

Building off the principles outlined in Session 1 of the 2021 Media Impact Forum, in this second discussion we’ll hear how funders are supporting organizations, projects and collaborations that are promoting vaccine confidence among communities of color and more generally across the nation.

In order to build confidence, though, it’s important to understand vaccine hesitancy among these groups from a historical perspective. Decades of racist practices in the healthcare industry have contributed to ongoing social inequities and mistrust among communities of color. Dr. George Mensah of the National Institutes of Health will give us an overview of the impacts of race-based treatment on healthcare outcomes for people of color.

Then, we’ll hear from the Colorado Health Foundation on its Vaccine Confidence/Equitable Uptake and Strategic Communications Outreach Project, which centers on communities of color in Colorado.

We’ll also hear about the Ad Council’s communications effort to encourage vaccination against the virus. Launched in partnership with the COVID Collaborative, the effort represents one of the largest public education campaigns in history.

We’ll hear from:

Dr. George Mensah, MD, Director of the Center for Translation Research and Implementation Science, National Health, Lung and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health
Dr. George Mensah is a clinician-scientist who currently serves as the Director of the Center for Translation Research and Implementation Science at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In this role, Dr. Mensah leads a trans-NHLBI effort to advance late-stage translational research and implementation science to address gaps in the prevention, treatment, and control of heart, lung, and blood diseases and the elimination of related health inequities. His goal is to maximize the population health impact of advances made in fundamental discovery science and pre-clinical or early-stage translational research. Dr. Mensah is an honors graduate of Harvard University. He obtained his medical degree from Washington University and trained in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at Cornell. His professional experience includes more than 20 years of public health service between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the NIH. In addition to his public service, Dr. Mensah had 15 years of experience in direct patient care, teaching, and research at Cornell, Vanderbilt, and the Medical College of Georgia (MCG). He was a full professor with tenure at MCG and is currently a Visiting Full Professor at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Dr. Mensah has been admitted to fellowships in several national and international societies including the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and the European Society of Cardiology. He is an Honorary Fellow of the College of Physicians of South Africa. He maintains active collaboration with several international groups to advance research on the global burden of diseases and risk factors.

Karen McNeil-Miller, Ed.D , President and CEO, The Colorado Health Foundation
As the president and CEO of The Colorado Health Foundation, Karen helps guide the Foundation to determine the most impactful investment of human, financial and influence capital on behalf of the Coloradans who need it the most.

At the Foundation since September 2015, Karen describes the mission as a key driving force in her life. She says, “I chose this important field of work to be on the ground in Colorado communities and to get closer to those in need – many through no fault of their own – and assist in every way I could.”

Karen joined the Foundation after serving for more than 10 years as the president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, one of North Carolina’s largest private foundations. Under her leadership, the Trust evolved into a strategic, impact-driven foundation with a national presence on issues ranging from rural health to access to care.

Before joining the Trust, Karen spent 16 years with the Center for Creative Leadership, an international leadership development and research nonprofit organization headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina. During her tenure, Karen developed expertise in individual and organizational leadership development, succession planning, strategic thinking, team building, diversity, executive coaching and leading change and transitions.

Taryn Fort, Senior Director of Communications and External Influence, The Colorado Health Foundation
At the Foundation, she leads the Communications team, where she sets the vision for the communications department to advance Foundation goals, strategy and mission through effective and equitable communications. She’s also responsible for developing and managing relationships that help advance organizational influence through strategic executive engagement and community engagement, including programming that advances the nonprofit executive leadership sector. Through all of this work, Taryn is driven by her belief that everyone deserves to be healthy, regardless of economic, social or geographic circumstances. As a communicator, she also believes we have a responsibility to tell the story of Colorado’s health and create a sense of belonging for those the Foundation serves.

Kate Emanuel, Chief Strategy Officer, Ad Council
Kate has 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and public sectors, with deep experience in strategic planning, policy analysis and communications.

Kate oversees business operations and strategy for the Ad Council. She also is responsible for external affairs and strategic partnerships with the nonprofit and foundation communities, Congress, Federal Government and the White House. She also vets all social issues and campaigns for the Ad Council and manages the Advisory Committee on Public Issues, an esteemed group of the nation’s top thought-leaders from the foundation, academic, nonprofit and corporate philanthropy communities.

Before her time with the Ad Council, Kate was Chief of Staff for U.S. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) where she created and coordinated all aspects of the Congressmember’s legislative, policy and constituent outreach agenda.

Kate also served as a Vice President at a public interest PR firm, Spitfire Strategies, as well as the Housing Service Coordinator at a nonprofit affordable housing developer in California and a researcher with an environmental non-profit in Johannesburg, South Africa.

She earned a joint master’s degree in Public Health and Urban Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. Kate and her husband Ken, a photojournalist, live in Washington, DC with their rescue dog, Toby.

Cara V. James, Ph.D, President and CEO, Grantmakers In Health

Cara James is President and CEO at Grantmakers In Health (GIH). Prior to joining GIH, she served as Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) where she provided leadership, vision, and direction to advance the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS goals related to reducing disparities and achieving health equity for vulnerable populations, including racial and ethnic populations, persons with disabilities, sexual and gender minorities, and persons living in rural communities. Under her guidance, CMS developed its first CMS Equity Plan to Improve Quality in Medicare, its first Rural Health Strategy, created an ongoing initiative to help individuals understand their coverage and connect to care, increased the collection and reporting of demographic data, and developed numerous resources to help stakeholders in their efforts to reduce disparities.

Before joining CMS, Dr. James served as Director of the Disparities Policy Project and Director of the Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars Program at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, where she was responsible for addressing a broad array of health and access to care issues for people of color and other underserved populations, including the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act, analyses of state-level disparities in health and access to care, and disparities in access to care among individuals living in health professional shortage areas. Prior to joining the foundation, she worked at Harvard University and The Picker Institute. Dr. James is a past member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Health and Medicine (NASEM) Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity and has served on several NASEM committees. She has published a number of peer-reviewed articles. Dr. James holds her doctorate in health policy and her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard University.