Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation: Grants for Early Childhood Education

OVERVIEW: The Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of its namesake law firm, is committed to supporting education in the inner-city communities in which the firm has a presence.

IP TAKE: This foundation acknowledges that its biggest grant amounts are earmarked for their V.I.P.s—calling them Relationship Grants, and more or less distributing them to the same players year-to-year. But it is also refreshingly flexible when it comes to its smaller Community Grants—awarding up to $2,000 per classroom for a wide variety of learning and participatory projects. And while K-12 education receives the bulk of support through both programs, early childhood education is clearly supported as well.

PROFILE: The Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Brown Rudnick LLC, an international law firm focused on business law, headquartered in Boston, with additional U.S. offices in Hartford, New York City, Orange County, CA, Providence, and Washington, D.C.

That list is relevant, because those are the only places the foundation will grant funds. And the only types of funds it grants are in the realm of education, with K-12 education at the forefront, but also with clear support of early childhood education.

This support of education flows through the foundation's commitment to creating positive social change by supporting inner-city education. It does this through both its Relationship Grants and Community Grants programs.

Relationship Grants is an apt name for the foundation’s larger (in terms of amounts given) program. Through this program the Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation is not only giving funds, but also providing employee volunteer hours and pro bono legal services—a relationship larger than a one-shot cash infusion. The term “relationship” can also refer to the fact that virtually all of the grantees under this umbrella are multi-year recipients. For its 2014/15 cohort, only two of the 11 grant recipients were first-time grantees; five of the recipients had received annual awards five or more times.

Relationship Grants are more often awarded to 501(c)(3)s than directly to school districts or individual schools. A recent early childhood education grantee is Ready To Learn Providence/The Providence Plan, with $20,000 for its early learning program, which works with libraries, head start programs, and family day care centers throughout the city. (The grant funds provided matching dollars to secure federal AmeriCorps volunteers.)

Despite the entrenched relationships built into these Relationship Grants, the Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation does have an open LOI process for them, with applications due in March.

But if your early childhood education project is based in a classroom, your needs are for a one-time program, and you can make use of a modest amount, the Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation’s Community Grants are the way to go. The foundation’s tagline here is “Front Line Focus,” which neatly encapsulates where and how these smaller amounts ($2,000 maximum) should be directed. The foundation adds:

Although the amount of these grants may seem modest, we have found that the connections that they foster, the activities they encourage and the energy they create, have the potential to unleash countless contributions to improving inner-city education in the communities where we live and work.

Grants given through this program can either be directed by a school or classroom teacher, or otherwise by a 501(c)(3) that is partnering with a school to “recognize, encourage, and collaborate with the front-line workers within the educational system who often do not have a voice in funding decisions.” The projects also need to be “concrete,” and its inner-city education focus narrows down further—limited to Boston, Hartford, New York City, Providence, and Washington, D.C., (taking Orange County, CA out of the mix).

The Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation has shown that it’s very open as to the types of subjects and activities its grants will support—as well as how those funds will be used—so long as it’s a classroom-driven, one-time project (rather than ongoing programming).

Early childhood education grantees include:

  • Perry School Community Services Center (Washington, DC) for program support of its "Home Instruction to Parents of Pre-School Youngsters"
  • Brown/Fox Point Early Childhood Education Center (Providence, RI) to purchase a sand/water table
  • Nickerson Community Center (Providence, RI) to purchase camera equipment required for National Association for the Education of Young Children certification
  • Imagine Hope Lamond Public Charter School (Washington, DC) to purchase and implement its "Handwriting without Tears" curriculum in three preschool classrooms.

    The Community Grants program is an online open application, with considerations made monthly.

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