OVERVIEW: The Casey Foundation has a long history of supporting child wellness, with a focus on "advancing child welfare and juvenile justice," "promoting economic opportunity for working families," and "creating community change for kids and parents." Children's health and literacy are major focal points, though to a lesser extent early education plays into its grant strategy.
IP TAKE: The Casey Foundation doesn't compete in the same circles as the Gates and Buffett foundations of the world, and its early childhood funding takes a backseat to some of Casey's other initiatives. Nevertheless, the foundation may be a good option for smaller, community-based organizations or grantees with collaborative programs that address children's health and wellness in innovative ways.
PROFILE: The Annie. E. Casey foundation is a family- and community-focused organization "devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes." In recent years, the Casey Foundation has directed much of its early childhood funding at literacy through the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national collaboration aimed at preparing students to be proficient readers by the third grade. The foundation does not have a specific ECE grantmaking program; related grants have typically been awarded out of its Education program.
The foundation has developed many partnerships with early literacy nonprofits and community-oriented change makers. Projects in this area include advocacy and awareness campaigns, as well as grants to national organizations that are developing learning materials for a wide audience. The foundation has shown a willingness to work with local, community-based and family-centered service providers. Recent ECE-related grantees have included the Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers in Atlanta, GA, which has received grants in recent years of up to $300,000, as well as Advocates for Children of New Jersey, which has received multiple one-year grants of $50,000 - $100,000 to support projects such as its participation in the Kids Count network ("spearheaded" by Casey) as well as efforts "to increase participation" in New Jersey's school breakfast program.
Unfortunately for initial grantseekers, Casey has awarded only a handful of early childhood education grants annually (a searchable database of all Casey grants is available here). Additionally, the foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, which adds to the challenge of earning Casey funding. That said, Casey has a track record of continuous year-over-year support for several of the ECE organizations it does fund, so those organizations that can catch Casey's attention and demonstrate the value of their contributions have the potential to gain a lasting supporter.
- Ralph Smith, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Campaign for Grade Level Reading