Q & A with Jessie Rasmussen, President, Buffett Early Childhood Fund; ECFC member and former Chair, ECFC Steering Committee
What’s the value of ECFC to philanthropists investing in the early years?
ECFC represents a great opportunity for philanthropists who are investing in and are deeply committed to the overall wellbeing of all children to come together for authentic peer learning – to share what they have done, why, and if and how their strategies have worked. ECFC also provides an opportunity for funders to leverage each other’s work and sometimes work together to achieve greater impact in the early childhood field.
How has ECFC grown and responded to growth in the early childhood field?
Historically, ECFC was by design a place for a small group of funders to have a safe space to explore early childhood policy and practice and have intimate discussions about challenges, questions and issues. However, the recognition of the importance of the early years has grown exponentially since ECFC was established, creating a need for a stronger collective voice to improve early childhood systems and policies. In recent years, ECFC has made significant and intentional changes towards becoming a central place for all early childhood funders to come for learning, sharing and opportunities for collaboration – while maintaining intimate and meaningful conversations. ECFC has moved towards this broader field building role with the hire of our first Executive Director in 2016, Shannon Rudisill. Under her leadership, ECFC is pursuing a strategy of growth and strategic engagement with partners across philanthropy to build capacity for supporting policies and practices that help young children and their families thrive.
How does ECFC support and enhance the work of individual foundations?
ECFC gives funders a stronger, collective voice in public policy, especially at the federal level. While it’s nice to have four or five funders expressing their interests to elected and administrative policy makers, it’s powerful to have 25 funders making a collective statement through ECFC. With ECFC as our vehicle, individual early childhood funders can be a stronger influence and achieve greater impact than we could on our own.
ECFC is also a place where funders new to the early childhood arena can learn from other funders and gain perspective that can help them shape their early childhood work in a way that benefits from the experiences and knowledge of others, i.e. they don’t have to start from scratch. ECFC has great potential to become a central repository of all things in the early childhood philanthropy world. This will be a substantial contribution to the field, not only providing a central jumping off point for funders new to this arena, but also providing members and already interested/engaged funders with a place to find lessons and opportunities to leverage each other’s work.
ECFC is a place to connect the dots, to get a better understanding of how all the myriad of issues related to child well-being fit together. Individual funders may not be able to invest in all the areas impacting children and families, but they can better leverage their own work when they know how it fits within the full landscape of early childhood.
Why is ECFC a unique environment for moving the early childhood forward?
ECFC is a unique environment for members – every meeting and event designed for member learning and exchange is meaningful. And that is what makes Buffett prioritize ECFC engagement over other groups and conferences, knowing that we will always leave ECFC meetings with something that will improve the effectiveness of our foundation and our relationships with other early childhood philanthropists.
ECFC looks forward to what we can accomplish together as a strong and deeply connected collective of early childhood philanthropists.
Learn more about ECFC.