A North Carolina Health Funder Is Making Early Childhood Education a Top Priority

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is known as a big public health funder around North Carolina. Back in November 2016, the funder announced that it be accepting applications in four health-related issue areas: access to primary care, community centered prevention, diabetes, and behavioral health. At that time, it also set a goal to invest $100 million in 10 to 12 financially disadvantaged, rural North Carolina counties over the next 10 years. A ranking of the trust’s current priority counties, based on unemployment rates, median household income, population growth, and property tax base, can be viewed here.

But just recently, the trust made a totally different kind of commitment, one that’s more focused on early childhood education than anything else. The funder has committed to giving up to $3 million to its Great Expectations initiative, which “works to ensure that all children living in Forsyth County enter kindergarten ready to learn and leave set for success in school and life.” As part of the bigger picture, the trust pledged to invest between $30 to $40 million dollars over 10 to 15 years by partnering with a wide variety of grantees and partners.

Right now, the trust plans to stay committed to early childhood development in Forsyth County but focus even more tightly on early intervention and health, access to high quality child care, and educational services available in the county for kids from birth through the age of eight. This narrowed focus comes after months of listening and learning efforts to assess the greatest needs in the local community. The funder worked with 13 social service agencies and surveyed more than 300 parents about their needs. Meanwhile, 77 programs were part of a data sharing program aimed at identifying identify service gaps and aligning services.

Based on the survey results, the trust may pull back on its support for pre-K teacher development because only about a quarter of Forsyth County parents have enrolled their children in a licensed care center. However, the trust may also put more support into programs that help educate local parents about the resources that are available to them, because many reported that they could stand to be more informed about such opportunities. It also now realizes a greater need for social services to be better aligned and coordinated with one another, so collaborative grantees stand a good chance in the upcoming grant cycle.

To stay aligned with the founder’s wishes, 75 percent of all Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust grants to towards improving health and wellness in North Carolina, and 25 percent goes towards improving the quality of life and basic needs exclusively in Forsyth County. So, this is one of the Trust’s rarer grants, but certainly not uncommon.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust staff is open to discussing your idea for improving outcomes for Forsyth County children for the next grant cycle as long as you contact them by March 23. The upcoming application deadline is April 4, but a call to discuss is strongly recommended first. For the best results, focus your idea on improving access to quality child care and populations with needs that often go unmet. This includes children who are homeless, have special needs, and dual-language learners.

Program Coordinator Erin Yates is a good initial point of contact for this initiative. Depending on what the staff thinks of your idea, they may schedule an appointment for a formal advance consultation with you.