History of the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative

ECFC was established in 1992 to improve collaboration among funders, foster peer learning, identify issues of common concern, and incubate ideas for advancing the field. Growing from eleven original members to 55 members in 2021, today ECFC is comprised of national, regional, state, and local foundations and state level funder collaboratives with a demonstrated investment priority in early childhood development and learning.

Throughout its history, ECFC has sought opportunities to leverage philanthropic, public, and private resources to promote systemic, equity-focused policy and high-quality practice with young children and families at the center.

BUILD Initiative – An Investment in State Level Systems Building

Recognizing that families of young children too often struggled to find the programs and services they needed from fragmented early childhood systems, ECFC created the BUILD initiative in 2002. Addressing the fact that organizations often operate in isolation, at cross purposes, or without enough resources to meet critical needs, BUILD helps state leaders develop comprehensive, racially equitable systems of programs, policies and services that address the needs of the whole child and their families. This systems-building approach effectively prepares our youngest children for a successful future, while carefully using private and public resources.

Funded initially by fourteen ECFC member foundations, many of whom continue to engage as funding partners, BUILD now works intensively in eight states and the District of Columbia and touches all 50 states with its learning community. Throughout its history, BUILD’s funders have remained informed and engaged partners, learning from the innovations that have resulted from investing in state-level systems building. For more information on BUILD, visit www.buildinititive.org.

Federal Philanthropic Fund – A Flexible Response to Help States Maximize Federal Opportunities

In 2011 and then again in 2012, the Obama Administration proposed significant investments in early childhood. The Early Learning Challenge grants supported work in 14 states with $633 million and in 2013, at the time of the launch of the Federal Philanthropic Fund (FPF), the President had proposed a significant investment in pre-school, support for vulnerable families through home visiting programs and expansion of early learning opportunities for infants and toddlers through Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. The promise of these bold federal proposals represented a game-changing opportunity for the ECFC. The Federal Philanthropic Fund was designed to quickly support national, state, and community organizations in their efforts to educate stakeholders, mobilize efforts, and maximize chances for securing a federally-funded early childhood agenda that supports state innovation. The FPF helped state leaders demonstrate a groundswell of support for early childhood investment by increasing the cohesiveness and visibility of philanthropic support for federal investment, incenting coordination and collaboration between and among national groups and state advocacy organizations and supporting diverse but coordinated efforts to advocate for federal investment. A total of $557,500 was raised for the Federal Philanthropic Fund, from among ECFC members and other funders. Two rounds of grants were directed to a mix of state and national grantees to apply a strategic lens to advocacy work at the state level with the goal of not only identifying gaps in support, but also reaching beyond typical allies to engage new champions with fresh perspectives.

2014 White House Early Learning Summit – An Opportunity to Share Philanthropy’s Perspectives

Private philanthropy has a unique collective voice on policy issues shaped by years of investment in early childhood. One of ECFC’s overarching goals is to carefully use that collective voice to promote federal, state, and local policies and practices that support young children, their families, and the early childhood community. Members have adopted an ongoing learning agenda focused on analysis of policy opportunities, the potential impacts on children and families, and the roles philanthropy can play at the federal, state and local levels.

In 2014, ECFC participated in a dialogue with the Obama Administration to highlight philanthropic support of early childhood and strengthen public-private partnerships. Starting with a White House briefing in April, ECFC members had the opportunity to share their experiences and thoughts about how to sustain and build momentum for support of young children and their families. ECFC was among the organizations invited to help shape an Early Learning Summit.

In December 2014, President Obama convened state and local policymakers, mayors, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, and advocates, for the White House Summit on Early Education, highlighting collective leadership in support of early education for America’s children. At the Summit, leading private and philanthropic organizations announced new commitments to spur greater access to high-quality preschool and early learning. Together with new federal investments, the President announced a collective investment of over $1 billion in the education and development of America’s youngest learners.

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