Collaborating Towards Kindergarten Readiness at Scale: A Funder Group Case Study

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A new study from The Bridgespan Group explores how a funder collaboration set a fixed goal and continuously evolved its methods to achieve it. Formed at the invitation of David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation a group of 12 funders adopted a straightforward and ambitious goal: identify a few high-impact ideas to improve kindergarten readiness for all children, and find collaborative ways to advance them.

After two years of meeting together, the funders had not settled on any investments. Prompted by the group’s principal convener, Meera Mani, director of the Children, Families, and Communities Program of the Packard Foundation to consider if they should stop meeting, the group altered course and picked up speed. Eighteen months later, two teams within the group had pooled $26 million to pursue big bets in two areas: strengthening the early childhood workforce of teachers and other professional care givers, and changing the standard of care in pediatric well-child visits (see also Parenting Through Pediatrics funder collaborative).

The two teams have invested much more in these strategies than any of the individual members would have on their own. And the full group, including some who have not invested in either the workforce or pediatric initiatives, continues to work to identify additional areas for collaboration.

The case study follows essential steps that the collaborative took to achieve their goals (such as setting a goal, gathering the right people, and building an infrastructure to support the collaborative’s work together), as well as essential questions: How did these funders come to agreement on two early childhood investments? What barriers did they overcome along the way? What might other funders interested in philanthropic collaboration—regardless of their fields—learn from the experience of the early childhood collaborative?

The study also includes examples from the group including: Principles of Engagement, select sample meeting agendas, and a funding proposal template used by the two funding

Read the Full StudyCollaborating Towards Kindergarten Readiness at Scale: A Funder Group Case Study

Related Reading: Lessons from Funder Collaborations from ECFC Members

Seldon, Willa, and Judy Huang. “Lessons in Funder Collaboration: What the Packard Foundation Has Learned about Working with Other Funders.” The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and The Bridgespan Group, 2014.

Porter, William, Kelly James, Robert Medina, and Barbara Chow. “Funder Collaborations — Flourish or Flounder?” The Foundation Review 9, no. 4, (2017).


“Someone has to step up. You can get together and have a meeting. But if you want it to go beyond the meeting and become an initiative, someone has to lead. Six followers don’t move anything”.

Ira Hillman, Lead – Parenting and Childhood Portfolio, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust

Photo credit: BridgespanFunderCaseStudy

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