Steering Committee

Early Childhood Funders Collaborative Leadership

Jessie Rasmussen


Buffet Early Childhood Fund

Rasmussen is President of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, an organization she joined in 2007. Since its founding in 2005, the fund has invested approximately $150 million in early childhood practice, policy and research.

Before joining the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Rasmussen spent the first two decades of her career as an early childhood educator and administrator. From there, she moved into the government sector, first as a Nebraska State Senator, then as Human Services Director for both Nebraska and Iowa. Rasmussen also served as a policy director at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. Rasmussen is a Board Member of Educare of Washington DC, where her biography also highlights her key role in the passage of Nebraskan legislation establishing a $60 million early childhood endowment funded through a public and private partnership.

While Director of the Department of Human Services, Rasmussen dealt with some serious issues and adversity. In 2002, a mother named Lori Teska sued her after a social services dispute, claiming that Rasmussen did not properly train personnel working under her. The court vindicated Rasmussen, but the incident certainly seems to have impacted upon her. In a 2009 hearing in front of the House Labor and Education Committee, Rasmussen emphasized the importance of professional development. “As we talk more and more about the importance of the early learning in the first five years and understanding child development. . . we need to get more and more people who are trained in that body of knowledge,” she stated in that hearing. In that same address, she also stated bilingualism, especially in Spanish, as a key skill that childhood care professionals should possess. Rasmussen also discusses the need for teachers and officials working in related fields to erase the differentiation between the concepts of “childcare” and “early education,” as they ought to operate as a seamless and unified environment of support for children.

Wendy Lewis Jackson

Managing Director

The Kresge Foundation

Wendy Lewis Jackson is managing director for the Detroit Program. She co-leads The Kresge Foundation’s efforts to revitalize Detroit and to strengthen its social and economic fabric. Her work supports organizations providing economic opportunity for low-income people and addresses the needs of vulnerable children and families.

Prior to joining Kresge in 2008, Wendy was a program director for Children and Family Initiatives and executive director for education initiatives at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation in Grand Rapids, Mich. She taught at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and has co-authored and assisted in the publication of several reports and publications that address community needs and problem solving.

Wendy is an American Marshall Memorial Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States; the Association of Black Foundation Executives named her an Emerging Leader in 2008. Wendy earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and communications from the University of Michigan. She also holds a master’s degree in social work from U-M, with a concentration in community organization and social policy and planning.

Lynn Merz

Executive Director

Mimi and Peter Haas Fund

Lynn Merz is the Executive Director of the Mimi and Peter Haas Fund. She has served in this position for the past 10+ years.  Prior to joining the Fund, Lynn was Vice President and Chief Organizational Officer at the Peninsula Community Foundation. Previously, Lynn served as the first Director of Child, Youth and Family Services for the San Mateo County Office of Education, and the Executive Director and Director of Development for Family Council of Half Moon Bay.

Before coming to California, Lynn worked as the Director of Education for residential and day-schools for emotionally troubled adolescents in Massachusetts. During her career in the Boston area, she was a principal in a consulting and counseling services practice that served independent high schools as well as adolescent clients and their families. Lynn also taught at Harvard University’s Extension Program and Tuft’s University. Lynn has a B.A. from Boston University, a Masters degree in Human Services Administration and Community Education from the University of Massachusetts; and a Masters degree in Counseling and Consulting Psychology from Harvard University. 

The Mimi and Peter Haas Fund is an innovative family foundation with a deep commitment to early childhood issues. The Fund supports activities that provide San Francisco’s low-income children ages two to five years of age and their families with access to high quality early childhood programs that are part of a comprehensive, coordinated system. The Fund recognizes the importance of connecting the work of its early childhood direct service grants to improvements in public policy, and seeks specific opportunities to share and collaborate with other nonprofit organizations. In 2015, the Fund seeded the first shared services alliance in the Bay Area and continues to support this effort.

The Mimi and Peter Haas Fund also supports trustee-initiated grant-making to arts, education, the environment, public affairs, and health and human services organizations.  Over the past decade, the Fund has made $60 million in grants within the ECE field in San Francisco.

Mary Louise McClintock

Director of Education Programs

The Oregon Community Foundation

Mary Louise McClintock is the director of The Oregon Community Foundation’s Education Programs. In that role, she oversees the Foundation’s investments in education from birth to post-secondary. She has been with OCF since 2008. Mary Louise has an undergraduate degree from Lewis and Clark College and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. Mary Louise previously served as Child Care Coordinator for the State of Oregon, having been appointed to that position by Governor Neil Goldschmidt. She also has worked for the U.S. Congress, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning, the Oregon Legislative Assembly and as an independent consultant.

Rashanda Perryman-Stiff

Program Officer  

Vanguard Community Stewardship

Rashanda Perryman-Stiff is a Program Officer at Vanguard in the Corporate Philanthropy Division. She was former Program Officer at the William Penn Foundation in Philadelphia, PA. Rashanda has spent 20 years in early learning and has worked her way through the field starting as a preschool teacher in a community based child care center and a caseworker in child care subsidy management. For the last decade she has worked in early childhood public policy at both the Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago, IL and the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, DC.

Jeff Sunshine

Program Officer & Manager

The David and Lucille Packard Foundation

Jeff Sunshine joined the Packard Foundation in 2007. He is a program officer and manager of the early learning and after-school and summer enrichment grantmaking portfolios in the Children, Families, and Communities program. Prior to joining the Foundation, Jeff was director of programs at Community Foundation Silicon Valley overseeing its domestic and global grantmaking activities and initiatives. He also served as the executive director of the Volunteer Center of Alameda County and as director of volunteer programs for the Archdiocese of the City and County of San Francisco. Jeff is trained as a special education teacher and as a mental health clinician. He practiced as a family therapist for fifteen years both in Boston and in the Bay Area. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science in education from State University of New York at Buffalo, an Ed.M. in counseling psychology from Tufts University, and a Ph.D. in human and organization development and public policy from Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara.

Sara Vecchiotti

Vice President, Research and Program Innovation

Foundation for Child Development

Dr. Sara Vecchiotti is the Vice President of Research and Program Innovation at the Foundation for Child Development and is responsible for research, program and grant development and monitoring, as well as communications strategies. Prior to this position, Dr. Vecchiotti served as the Chief Operating Officer for Lutheran Social Services of New York, overseeing all social service programs including, early care and education, special education, immigration services, homeless housing among other issues. Dr. Vecchiotti also held several leadership positions at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services within the Division of Early Care and Education, including Associate Commissioner of Child Care Operations. Dr. Vecchiotti completed the Society for Research in Child Development Congressional Fellowship in the Office of Senator Jeff Bingaman working on early care and education policy and the Executive Branch Fellowship in the Office of Child Care at the United States Department of Health and Human Services in the Administration for Children and Families. She also held fellowships at the Foundation for Child Development, Yale Child Study Center, Columbia University, Teachers College and the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy. She holds a doctorate in applied developmental psychology from Fordham University and law degree from New York Law School.