W.K. Kellogg Foundation: Grants for Early Childhood Education

OVERVIEW: The W.K. Kellogg Foundation places the "optimal development of children at the center of all we do and calls for healing the profound racial gaps and inequities that exist in our communities." Its primary focus is early childhood (prenatal to age 8). Against the backdrop of Community Engagement and Racial Equity, the WKKF's strategic goals focus on ensuring early childhood reading and math proficiency, provision of the care and nutrition necessary for "optimal development," and decreasing the number of children and families living in poverty. 

IP TAKE: In terms of grant dollars, WKKF is one of the most important early childhood grantmakers. WKKF's Educated Kids program provides millions of dollars each year to ECE nonprofits, and its Healthy Kids program also provides funding to ECE organizations. If there's an underlying theme in WKKF's strategy, though, it would have to be innovation and collaboration: nonprofits working on outside-the-box, collaborative solutions are likely to have more success.  A large share of WKKF's funding is directed at the "priority regions" of Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, and New Orleans (along with "micro-regions" in Mexico and Haiti), but national early education organizations outside those areas may also qualify for funding.

PROFILE: Under the broad banner of Racial Equity and Community and Civic Engagement, Kellogg has three main areas of focus: Healthy Kids, Secure Families, and its ECE program, Educated Kids. WKKF's Educated Kids program has rather specific long-term goals — to raise the math and reading skills of children as they enter the third grade. But WKKF's program leaves room for a wide range of projects and nonprofits, from advocacy groups to service providers. 

A quick look at the program's strategies shows some specific areas that drive early childhood grantmaking. First, grants are made to "whole child development," with the majority of grants designed to help young children develop emotionally, physically, and cognitively. A key initiative in this regard is one that Kellogg calls GR8by8. You can follow their regular updates in this arena through the Facebook page the foundation maintains for this initiative. Educated Kids grants grants primarily go to service providers, but a good share also support advocacy efforts and awareness campaigns. In this light, ECE grantseekers would also do well to explore the foundation's Healthy Kids program, which has supported educational institutions such as Zuni Public School District 89 in New Mexico for a diabetes and obesity prevention program.

Kellogg's President and CEO, La June Montgomery Tabron, described the funder's emphasis this way, in a recent Forbes interview: "As an organization, we’ve placed a renewed emphasis on community and civic engagement and racial equity, because we know that these values are essential for communities that support thriving children.  We’ve evolved our programming to reflect these values, focusing our energy and mission around the needs of vulnerable children, specifically in our four priority places, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans."

Grants are also made toward supporting early childhood development and education from birth, at the family and community levels. These grants support groups and projects that include, prepare, and guide parents and guardians to help their children in early education. "Concentrating our resources on early childhood (prenatal to age 8), within the context of families and communities offers the best opportunity to dramatically reduce the vulnerability caused by poverty and racial inequity over time," explained vice president for program strategy Carla Thompson to IP editors.

Kellogg also supports additional areas such as education advocacy, projects that encourage lifelong learning, curriculum alignment, multicultural and multilingual education, and innovative education programs, which often are collaborative partnerships between many different stakeholders (including parents, educators, employers, and public officials). "That means we fund very few direct service programs unless the work is creating sustainable positive change," explained program officer Sharnita Johnson. "It is important for grantees to think about how their work improves conditions rather than improves the way they improve service delivery."

Its priority areas notwithstanding, the Battle Creek, Michigan-based foundation's priority areas should not discourage nonprofits based elsewhere, as WKKF also has a robust national early education program. "There is a common misunderstanding that new grantees must work in our target places," says Jon-Paul Bianchi, program officer. "In fact, the opposite is true for the national Education and Learning portfolio. In the national portfolio, we look for innovations in communities that are not in our target places in an effort to learn valuable lessons from communities around the U.S. that share similar characteristics with our target places."  A comprehensive database of WWKF grants is available here.

According to Kellogg's page for grantseekers, its committee reviews grant proposals year-round and does not impose deadlines for applications. Generally, it does not fund programs during their "operational phases" unless they are part of a "larger program budget being considered for funding."

PEOPLE:

  • Carla D. Thompson, Vice President, Program Strategy
  • Felicia DeHaney, Director, Education and Learning
  • Jon-Paul Bianchi, Program Officer
  • Arelis Diaz, Program Officer

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