Collaboration and Creativity in Funding Early Education

Public funding for early education does not provide sufficient resources for existing early education programs, so the need for philanthropic investments in this area is great. But what should those investments look like?

Donors from the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation recently came together to discuss this at a Donor-to-Donor event, “Investing in Our Youngest Citizens: Preparing for Success through Early Education.” Panelists included Aaron North and Halley French of the Kauffman Foundation and community leader and Community Foundation donor Susan Stanton.

The good news is that there are high-quality early education opportunities available, but they often are not accessible for many low-income families and families of color. And in many cases, programs are forced to choose between fundraising and spending time actually educating students.

So what is working? Creative and collaborative ways of giving can and will move the needle on this issue. Specifically:

  • Studies show students do better when their teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree, so donors are making grants to pay for substitute teachers who can cover classes while current teachers complete their degrees.
  • Success often starts with the parents, so donors are giving to programs that socialize parents with regular dinners attended by social workers and mental health professionals who can help parents deal with stresses in their own lives and understand the important role they play in providing safety and comfort for their children.
  • Compensation and benefits for early educators are lacking, so donors are offering incentives for those considering careers in early education.
  • To boost civic support, some donors have leveraged their philanthropy for public funds through matched donation programs.
  • Early childhood education is often referred to as “child care,” which implies that the benefits are only for parents. Funders are working to change society’s vernacular to put more emphasis on what it does for students.
  • The Kauffman Foundation and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation are both members of the Early Education Funders Collaborative, which is funding projects that demonstrate proven or promising results in preparing children for kindergarten in Kansas City. With combined resources, funders will be able to achieve transformative outcomes that wouldn’t be possible on their own.  

For more information on the early childhood education landscape in Kansas City, download the Greater Kansas City Early Care and Education Study executive summary or full report

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Whitney Hosty

Whitney Hosty

Whitney Hosty is senior philanthropic advisor for the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, a leading provider of charitable giving services. Whitney oversees the Community Foundation’s donor education program and works closely with many families and private foundations to focus and guide their philanthropic investments.