IntraHealth International booming

Pape Amadou Gaye
Pape Amadou Gaye

Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In July 2003, when it spun off from the School of Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill, IntraHealth International operated with roughly 60 employees and an annual budget of about $13 million.

Today, as it prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary in April, the nonprofit operates with roughly 650 employees and an annual budget of about $85.5 million.

After receiving a five-year, $260 million grant last year from the U.S. Agency for International Development, IntraHealth now is planning to diversify its fundraising to secure more private support that will allow it greater flexibility as it grows and develops new programs.

Led by Pape Amadou Gaye, a native of Senegal who served as a language instructor there for the Peace Corps and for many years was IntraHealth’s regional director in West Africa, the nonprofit also plans to step up its communications and marketing after operating under the radar despite its rapid growth, says Rebecca Kohler, the group’s vice president for strategic development and communications.

Founded in 1979 at the medical school as International Training and Health, or Intrah, the group initially focused on developing training skills and capacity, and offering training, on family planning throughout the world.

To develop the capacity of health-care workers, Intrah worked with training institutions, ministries of health and nursing schools, mainly serving nurses, midwives and other health paraprofessionals.

And while the medical school initially provided a natural home, Intrah’s mission was broader than that of a typical university program, although UNC since has expanded its own international focus, says Kohler.

“We felt being independent from the university would enable us to be more flexible, nimble and mission-oriented,” she says.

Renamed IntraHealth International, the agency faced the challenge of surviving as an independent nonprofit, building a board and diversifying its funding, which initially was dependent on a single federal contract.

The agency now has 40 contracts, with funding from the U.S. government accounting for 96 percent of its budget, with foundations, the private sector and individual donors accounting for the remainder.

The nonprofit reaches over 700,000 people in over 30 countries every year.

IntraHealth also has seen the focus of government funding for the health sector shift from training and capacity-building to more systemic strategies involving human resources and workforce issues.

The big grant approved last year, for example, includes funds to open an office in Mozambique, on the southeastern coast of Africa, and helping the government there address a critical shortage in health-care workers in rural areas.

IntraHealth’s approach is to work with governments to help them do a better job in planning, producing and supporting health-care workers.

The agency, for example, has developed open-source software that helps governments plan, track and deploy their health-care workforce.

Gaye, the nonprofit’s president and CEO, says that in the face of sweeping changes in the way global health and development are delivered and conducted, IntraHealth’s strategy is to invest “in local talent so they can create sustainable and accessible health care for themselves.”

To diversify its fundraising, IntraHealth has worked with consultants Susan Ross and Mary Moss of consulting firm moss + ross to establish a philanthropic arm that aims this year to raise $250,000 for a “catalyst fund,” mainly from individual givers and small family foundations.

And it has worked with French West Vaughan to design a new web site, and also has developed a new brand and logo.

IntraHealth, Kohler says, will be “raising our visibility and telling our story a little broader so we could hand-in-hand attract constituents and friends interested in our work and in supporting us.”

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