Early Care & Education

Future-Focused Philanthropy: Investing in the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative

For the past six years, I had the privilege of serving alongside the region’s most distinguished funding professionals via the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative (Collaborative), housed under Washington Area Women’s Foundation. It was a true bright spot in my 10+ years working in the CSR space and on education-related issues while at The Boeing Company. As I turn a new page in my career, allow this outgoing chair to offer a few reflections on why the Collaborative remains one of the soundest investments available to future-focused funders.

The Collaborative is a force-multiplier for good. A collection of top regional foundations and corporate funders, the Collaborative creates a coordinated system of philanthropic resources to improve access to high-quality early care and education (ECE) for low income families. Funders contribute a modest investment, pool it with the other members and collectively determine where to allocate investments. Working as a team, the Collaborative greatly extends the scale of impact individual funders have on their own. And for many foundations that may be considering a first foray into the ECE field, it’s hard to find a better vehicle that will expand your reach, and your knowledge-base, so easily.

The Collaborative is driving real progress on substantial systemic changes across the region. At a macro level over the past three years alone, the Collaborative leveraged over $37M toward high quality early education interventions and, through partners, influenced nine policy changes to better strengthen safety and affordability. Through strong leadership at the Women’s Foundation, the Collaborative is applying a racial equity lens to these investments.  Additionally, the Collaborative is spearheading the regional effort to create a consistent strategy on workforce development for ECE providers, which is backed by the National Academy of Sciences. The Collaborative is facilitating the dialogue between the region’s policy developers, enabling them to align their goals and build a cooperative workforce plan. Given the mobility of the region’s talent and market pressures on wage growth, consistent policies on competencies and credentialing will be greatly needed.

The Collaborative offers members a real leadership platform. The public is demanding more from our ECE sector. That’s a good thing. But the sector remains grossly under-resourced and underappreciated, even from the philanthropy community. Dollar for dollar, ECE investments offer the most effective use of education funding, mitigating the need for costly interventions later in the K-12 pipeline. Working through the Collaborative, membership provides a real opportunity for companies and other brand-conscious foundations seeking differentiation and impact. The Collaborative provides numerous vehicles for member entities to showcase their efforts in this space. And collectively, given the leadership and composition of the members, it represents one of the strongest voices from the funding community on ECE issues.

I look forward to seeing the Collaborative’s continued accomplishments in the months to come. And I hope to see more bright minds and diverse perspectives from the region’s top companies and foundations at this unique funder table. Only then will we really move outcomes forward for young children and families.

–Tom Bartlett, Former Co-Chair of the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative.

Tom Bartlett was the Senior Manager for Boeing Global Engagement and Co-Chair of the Washington Area Women’s Foundation Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative. Together with his partner, he is launching a new impact investing firm aimed at helping more non-profits access impact capital. Working with investors, donors and non-profits, they seek to unite unexpected allies in the creation of social change.