Starting Young: How This Financial Giant Gives in Philadelphia

photo: NadyaEugene/shutterstock

photo: NadyaEugene/shutterstock

Individual investors and financial professionals will be familiar with the name Vanguard because of its mutual funds, which involve more than 20 million investors in about 170 different countries. This financial giant has five U.S. locations, over a dozen international offices, and $5.1 trillion in assets under management. It's also become a major player in donor-advised funds through Vanguard Charitable, making nearly 100,000 grants in 2017 totalling $873 million. 

In addition, Vanguard, which is headquartered in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, engages in corporate philanthropy and is a funder that nonprofits in the Philadelphia region should pay attention to. 

Valley Forge is about 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia. So unsurprisingly, the company’s charitable arm focuses a decent amount of its grantmaking in this region. A good example of this is the Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Program, which was established three years ago to improve kindergarten readiness for children who grow up in poverty. While Vanguard provides charitable support all around the world, this particular program is centered on U.S. employees in the cities of Philadelphia, Phoenix and Charlotte. It's the investment company’s signature charitable initiative and a great one to know for local groups in the Philadelphia area.

We wrote about Strong Start for Kids recently, looking at its $3 million gift to the Free Library of Philadelphia for work to empower childcare providers with the tools and knowledge they need to encourage early literacy and languaged development.  

RelatedA Major Gift Underscores the Role of Childcare Providers in Early Learning

In addition, Vanguard recently awarded a $1.63 million grant to Drexel University for its West Philadelphia Action for Early Learning Initiative. The purpose of the grant is to improve early learning in this historically challenged part of the city and amplify the impact of the William Penn Foundation’s three-year, $987,000 grant for the same initiative. As we've reported, the Penn Foundation is a key player on early learning in Philadelphia. In Vangaurd, it has an important ally. 

Vanguard’s Community Stewardship director, Carra Cote-Ackah, said

Research has demonstrated that investments made early in children’s lives can set them on the path towards more successful life outcomes, and we’re delighted to help provide more high-quality opportunities for young children to learn, grow and thrive in our local communities.

Not only is Vanguard making substantial gifts to Philadelphia nonprofits through Strong Start for Kids, its employees are also encouraged to volunteer for local programs that get underprivileged kids ready to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. Last year, the corporate funder approved $7.3 million in total grants for this initiative, bringing the overall initiative total to 36 approved Strong Start for Kids Program grants totaling $11.2 million.

Unfortunately for local grantseekers, this program does not accept unsolicited funding requests. According to the funder’s website, “Dedicated, philanthropic professionals within Vanguard identify nonprofit partners using a research-driven top-down approach, instead of a bottom-up grant solicitation process.”

But what we do know is that Vanguard looks to improve high-quality early learning opportunities in childcare around the city and also that early literacy programs are a top priority. It has an eye on helping pregnant mothers, parents and caregivers  with the goal of supporting the physical well-being, social and emotional development, and cognitive development of Philadelphia’s youngest residents.

Another example of Vanguard's philanthropy in the city includes $3 million in grants to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to reduce barriers to care for low-income children and their families. In addition, community stewardship efforts are focused on employee giving and conserving the environment. In the Philadelphia area and throughout Pennsylvania, the company partners with the American Red Cross to sponsor blood drives and maintains community gardens with the help of employee volunteers.