Funders Join Forces to Boost Head Start in Detroit

After decades of mismanagement, population loss, and social and economic decline, stabilizing the city of Detroit is a monumental task — and one that won't be accomplished overnight or by a single entity.

Michigan-based funders, such as the Kresge and the W.K. Kellogg foundations, recognize the extent of the challenge and have allocated a portion of their grant-making efforts to projects focused specifically on projects based in the Motor City. More recently, these and other funders have joined forces to hopefully lay a foundation for better lives for Detroit's youngest and most vulnerable residents.

Forming a group known as the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, the foundations established a fund of $4.5 million for Head Start programs in Detroit. Participating funders include Kresge, W.K. Kellogg, the Skillman Foundation, the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, the McGregor Fund, the Jewish Fund, the PNC Foundation, and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. The group will operate its Head Start Early Childhood Fund and award competitive grants to Head Start sites in Detroit.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has a long history of early childhood funding, which makes its involvement with the Southeast Michigan collaborative fully consistent with its grantmaking agenda. Kresge has not previously been known as a major funder of early childhood education. However, its Detroit program is an important part of its funding agenda, and that program was the source of Kresge's commitment to the Head Start collaborative.

The Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative developed in a response to a federal early childhood initiative, which selected Detroit as one of five sites to take part in a new "birth to five" aproach to Head Start. The initiative combines Early Head Start services for pregnant women and infants with traditional Head Start programs for preschool children with one funding application.

Because Head Start requires that grantees have a non-federal source for a portion of their funding, Kresge, Kellogg, and the other funders partnered to start the Head Start fund as a source of matching funds for the organizations that will receive federal grant monies.