After the latest grant round for the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative, I received an email from the President of one of our new Grantee Partners. It was right before Thanksgiving, and she wrote, “I have so much to be thankful for. You, especially, and The Women’s Foundation will be on my Thanksgiving list from now on.”
Upon reading her email, I was overwhelmed with humility and gratitude. Here is a woman who works a full-time job and volunteers to run a nonprofit organization on evenings and weekends, and she’s thanking me? How can this be?
Unfortunately, it’s for the simple act of treating her with respect.
Those of us who work in philanthropy know that the sector is currently undergoing a reckoning of sorts. There are those of us who were discussing systemic racism, philanthropic power dynamics and the need for more trust-based philanthropy prior to this year. However, for many, this past summer meant they could no longer gloss over the articles, blogs, and other resource guides of how to invest with an equity lens. They now have to act.
The Women’s Foundation has been reforming our practices for some time now, and the members of the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative (ECEFC) have come along with us. The ECEFC is a group of funders who pool their money and make grant award decisions together. The members have changed slightly over time, but the group has come together to invest in early education systems change in the DC metropolitan region for the past 13 years. The Women’s Foundation is a member of the group, but we also staff it.
The ECEFC members have been refining their priorities in the area of early education over the past four years by listening to community needs and recommendations, while also updating their giving processes to better align with their collective values around equity in early education. This year, in the midst of the global pandemic, the national childcare crisis, and overall local hardship, they took a giant leap forward. They said they wanted to invest in the largely women of color, and largely under-compensated, early education workforce. Specifically, they stated a desire to provide resources to early educator membership associations, community organizers, and policy advocates to elevate the voices of early educators in policy decisions. And they wanted to support early educator well-being.
They also supported me in streamlining the application process and working with applicants more directly. This allowed me to help applicants with few or no staff to draft portions of their grant applications, update deadlines so that folks who had a family emergency come up the day the application was due could still submit, and finalize applications in our online system for some organizations when their internet wasn’t working properly or their paying day-job required their attention.
The Women’s Foundation and the ECEFC operate this way to show respect. Respect for time. Respect for expertise. Respect for people.
This new way of working is how The Women’s Foundation staff is partnering with applicants across all of our priority areas. And, it is one of the many reasons that the members of the ECEFC trust The Women’s Foundation to be its home.
Ultimately, the ECEFC awarded grants to 13 organizations for 2021, totaling $367,000. In another demonstration of respect, the ECEFC made the intentional decision to fund general operating requests, and offered applicants a choice of applying for general operating or project-specific funds. Ultimately, 60% of the total funds awarded this round are general operating dollars, which the Grantee Partners can use as they see fit.
The 2021 Grantee Partners/Projects are:
- Briya Public Charter School to support Multicultural Spanish Speaking Provider Association
- DC Association for the Education of Young Children
- DC Family Child Care Association
- DC Fiscal Policy Institute
- The Equity in Early Learning Initiative pilot project including Wonders Early Learning and Extended Day, The Campagna Center, Briya Public Charter School, and Bright Beginnings
- House of Ruth to support a pilot project including KidSpace, Bright Beginnings and the Early Childhood Innovation Network focused on early educator wellbeing
- Maryland Association for the Education of Young Children
- Maryland State Family Child Care Association
- Nonprofit Montgomery to support Montgomery Moving Forward
- Northern Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children
- Prince George’s Child Resource Center
- SPACEs In Action
- Voices for Virginia’s Children
There is still more work to be done, of course. Now that the funds are awarded, we will collect confidential feedback from applicants on how the process could be improved to better support them, to incorporate their needs, and to better respect them. And, what’s most important, we will improve our processes based on their feedback. Because just as we expect that nonprofits center the voices and lived experiences of those they serve in their work, philanthropy should do the same.
The 2020 members of the ECEFC include The Andrew and Julie Klingenstein Family Fund, Bainum Family Foundation, The Goldberg Family Fund, The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, The Richard E. and Nancy P. Marriott Foundation, PNC Foundation, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and The World Bank.