The giant David & Lucile Packard Foundation has long been a key funder on children's issues. The foundation is keenly focused on the first five years of life, and it describes its goal as working to ensure that all children "have access to health and early learning opportunities that help them be healthy, ready for school, and on track to reach their full potential."
Watchers of Packard will know that this funder is both a big player in its home region, the Bay Area, and also a major national and global funder with some seriously deep pockets—making $268 million in grants in a recent year.
Packard's grants for children issues tend to go mainly to national groups. Let’s take a closer look at where children’s funding has been going so far this year.
One recent grant went to a group called First Focus in Washington, DC. This is a nonpartisan advocacy organization working to make children a priority in federal policy and budgetary decisions. It received $200,000 of Packard money for general support. This is a significant grant because the grantee had never received Packard support before.
Also this year, Packard supported MomsRising Education Fund, which has a purpose of protecting healthcare coverage by educating us all about the ACA, Medicaid, and care needs. This Bellevue, Washington-based group received $250,000 in Packard money to spend over 12 months. This is a very familiar grantee to the Packard Foundation that also received grants in 2003, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
NC Child, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, is another group that has received a children-focused grant in 2017. This group aims to protect health insurance coverage for children and families and supports managed care. This was a $200,000 12-month grant. This is also a new grantee of Packard’s.
A Chatsworth, California organization called Child Care Resource Center, Inc. is also a new grantee that hasn’t received a Packard grant before. This is a $100,000 grant that’s going towards building play groups with the Kaleidoscope curriculum at Los Angeles Unified School District Parent Centers.
Another children’s grant that we’ll highlight here is a $200,000 one that went to Children’s Action Alliance. This is a Phoenix-based group that promotes policy to boost access to quality health care in the state for children. This group has also not seen Packard support before, and it’s a good example of how the foundation supports statewide efforts outside of California.
Not surprisingly, the Children's Defense Fund has also pulled in a Packard grant this year. Packard has been a reliable supporter of the CDF in recent years, but this year's grant—for $200,000 is more than twice as big as grants in previous recent years. Like many Beltway advocacy groups, CDF is girding by major fights with the Trump administration, and Packard's upped support may reflect the urgency of the moment.
In fact, looking at this recent sampling of children’s grants by Packard, it's pretty clear that this funder is keenly concerned about health insurance for kids at a moment when such coverage is facing threats. As well, this is a funder that favors policy and advocacy programs over direct services, at least in its national funding. (It's a different story with the foundation's local grantmaking.)
As for the size of Packard's grants, it follows a pattern we so often see among big national funders of spreading money pretty widely, with few grants larger than the low six figures and the foundation staying open to new grantees. This is good news for nonprofits trying to get in the door with this funder, but limits how much support any grantee is likely to get, which may be frustrating to long-time grantees looking to scale things up.
Speaking of scaling, Packard recently joined Blue Meridian Partners, which is a collaboration we’ve discussed before and is precisely focused on helping the best nonprofits helping children to expand their work. To recap, this is an Edna McConnell Clark Foundation-backed initiative that also has the support of the Hewlett, Weingart, and Sobrato Foundations, as well as some living donors like Stanley Druckenmiller and Steve and Connie Ballmer. The goal here is to invest at least $1 billion for economically disadvantaged children and youth, and Packard's presence in this group makes a big statement.