How Philanthropy Can Partner with Government to Support EC Priorities

In times of government transition, there is always a surge of interest in creating strategic, intentional partnerships between the philanthropic community and the federal government. Early childhood philanthropy has played many roles in supporting government at all levels.  
On February 18th, ECFC hosted the first of a series of in-depth discussions on strategies for working with government drawing on the strategies for leverage, expertise, talent, and engagement outlined in: Value-Added Strategies for Philanthropy: Partnering with a New Administration framework by SWB Strategic Solutions and Freedman Consulting LLC.  This Framework was introduced at virtual Funders Briefing on How Philanthropy Can Support the New Administration on January 7th, co-hosted with Freedman Consulting and SWB Strategic Solutions.  [Watch the January 7th Recording]
During this discussion we discussed examples and lessons from funders who are using or have used these strategies in partnership with government:
  1. Pooled and/or Matching Federal Resources Around Aligned Areas of Investment (Leverage)  
  2.  Addressing Staffing and Capacity Needs of Government Agencies (Talent)  
  3. Strategic Insights, Networks and Expertise to Tackle Public Sector Challenges (Expertise) 
  4. Supports for Convenings, Conversations, and Connecting Policymakers to Communities and Families (Engagement)  


ECFC hopes to continue gathering and cataloging examples of how philanthropy has worked with government by leveraging resources, providing expertise, and supporting collaboration and convenings with communities and partners.  A few examples include: 

Hawai’i: In 2020, the Samuel L. and Mary Castle Foundation, Omidyar Network, and Kamehameha Schools (the largest indigenous ECE funder in America), combined efforts with business groups and other public and private partners, to advocate for the passage Act 46, a massive expansion of public Pre-K from just four-year-old’s to all three and four-year-old’s.  The bill passed in June 2020.  With little state money available to fund the expansion, several vital private funders, including the Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation and Kamehameha Schools, stepped up to support initial implementation of the Pre-K expansion.  Castle is also currently co-sponsoring a legislative bill (HB 1236) to fund an early childhood educator stipend program for AY 2021-2022. The House bill would not have been introduced without the Castle Foundation paying for the stipends for 1-3 years while the state tax base slowly recovers from the pandemic shock. A recent award from the Early Educators Investment Collaborative for Hawaii’s ECE efforts also helped spur the bill.

New Jersey’s ACEs Action Plan: Created in partnership with the New Jersey ACEs Collaborative (New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Burke Foundation, The Nicholson Foundation, the Turrell Fund) and the Center for Health Care Strategies.  To support implementation of this work, the philanthropy partners are working closely with the state to establish the NJ Department of Children and Families – ACES Executive On Loan.

Nurture NJ Strategic Plan: A public/private partnership led by the Office of the First Lady of New Jersey, funded by The Nicholson Foundation and the Community Health Acceleration Partnership.  Nurture NJ is a bold plan for reducing maternal mortality by fifty percent and eliminating racial disparities in birth outcomes. It includes over 70 specific, actionable recommendations for maternal health stakeholders across all sectors, and will position New Jersey as a national leader in the fight for maternal health equity.  A group of funders are also considering the role of a funder collaborative focused on infant and maternal health to help support this work.

Oregon:  In 2020, a voters approved a tax measure to fund one of the most progressive universal preschool policies in Multnomah County, OR – where Portland is located. The Portland chapter of Social Venture Partners played a major role in the Preschool for All initiative, providing leadership on the planning task force, and incubating early strands of planning and assessment via staff and volunteer partner efforts over several years. Oregon Community Foundation, United Way of Columbia-Willamette and a number of other foundations, individual donors and donor advised funds supported planning costs (including amplifying the capacity of local community-based organizations serving communities of color to participate and bring parent voice to the table).

BUILD Initiative –Launched in 2002 by 14 ECFC foundations to leverage private funds to stimulate public investments in early learning. Today, the BUILD Initiative works intensively with 8 states and DC to support state leaders in their work to develop a comprehensive system of programs, policies and services that serve the needs of young children and their families.

The Federal Philanthropic Fund (FPF) – Launched in 2013 through a pooled fund among ECFC members and other funders to support state organizing and coordination around Early Learning Challenge Grants.  (See ECFC History)

Related Resources


Supporting the Public Sector

Building Advocacy Infrastructure

Philanthropy as Conveners and Connectors