Guiding Principles for EC Funders During the Pandemic


ASK GRANTEES AND OTHER COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS WHAT THEY NEED. 

To the extent feasible, don’t assume.  Especially as we hear about early childhood and social service programs not being able to withstand closure, we need to understand exactly what would help.  For example, home visiting and early intervention programs are seeking authorizations to be able to do telehealth visits.   NAEYC and Child Care Aware of America, including local AEYC affiliate and child care resource and referral agencies, are sources of information about what EC providers need in the short and long term.  Other sources of data on grantee, community and family experiences: 


WE NEED A BOTH/AND STRATEGY BETWEEN ADVOCACY AND MORE DIRECT RESPONSES.

Funders should pursue both direct response and advocacy.  Don’t pull back on advocacy and organizing, because equitable public investment strategies will yield more support to families and programs than philanthropic investments would ever be able to do. Advocates are working to expand the safety net and to include low income families and ECE providers in public funding responses.  Related reading:


TARGET INVESTMENTS FOR IMPACT & SUPPLEMENT (NOT REPLACE) PUBLIC RESPONSE

Philanthropy should consider how to target investments to have the most impact, augmenting and supplementing other public and private responses without reducing the responsibility and obligation of the public sector.  For example:  Head Start grants will continue to flow to providers even if they are closed and they are expected to pay their staffs.   They may be able to also provide “to-go” meals to families, but that may vary location to location based on how feasible.  Philanthropic support could help address any gaps in nutrition services or new ways to deliver services to families during the crisis.  CCDBG may continue to pay providers, even if they are closed.  States have many choices about how to implement ongoing payments to providers and how to ease the burden on families through copay waivers and other flexibilities.  Philanthropy can work in public-private partnership to encourage good state policy choices and augment public responses.   Related discussions and examples:


FLEXIBLE PHILANTHROPIC PRACTICE IS KEY.

Grantees should be given broad flexibility to redeploy or reset resources from existing purposes to rapid response.   Grantees should be able to suspend and/or modify deliverables and deadlines without prolonged renegotiations (perhaps through direct contact with program officers with minimal paperwork).   General operating support is an important resource to allow grantees the flexibility to respond to the changing circumstances.  Examples include:
  • The George Gund Foundation, offered flexibility for grantees to use funding for general operations, extended grant report deadlines, and other strategies to reduce burden on grantees and accelerate giving.   
  • The David and Lucille Packard Foundation converted some existing grant projects to general operating support, adjusted reporting and project timelines, and considered requests for expedited payments to grantees.   
  • The Ford Family Foundation (Oregon) converted three months’ worth of Spring 2020 grant funds to general operating dollars, and allowed grantees flexibility in use of project specific grant dollars to meet greatest needs without prior approval – for example, paying staff to help their communities in other ways if they can’t conduct their regular grant funded activities, or buying diapers for families that would normally participate in grant funded parent engagement meetings.   


THIS WILL BE A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT (A.K.A. What Comes Next?) 

Funders need to balance their response to urgent and immediate needs with their ability to sustain support for the field as it rebuilds over time.   As many states closed child care facilities, private philanthropy responded to immediate needs by establishing state, local and regional emergency ECE funds.  See ECFC’s  Tracking Chart of Emergency EC/Child Care Funds with Philanthropic Involvement, through July 2020, and analysis of Philanthropic Responses to Emergency EC and Child Care Needs, including how many applicants were applying; how quickly funds were running out in order to provide leading advocates with data to help their advocacy efforts about the need for public investment in ECE at this time.  EC funders are now turning their attention to continuing to support basic needs while looking to the future.  Related reading and resources on opening and rebuilding: