Elizabeth Pungello, Brady Education Foundation

TITLE: President

FUNDING AREAS: Early childhood education research focusing on low income communities

CONTACT: info@bradyeducationfoundation.org, 919-240-4941

IP TAKE: Pungello is a child development scientist first, which is evident in way she's directed the foundation since taking over in 2001. Brady's highly competitive grants focus exclusively on early ed research.

PROFILE: When Dr. Elizabeth Pungello became president of the Brady Education Foundation in 2001, she realigned its giving strategy, moving from public policy to exclusively dealing in education. Today, Brady's education focus is on research and evaluation, which—when you consider Pungello's academic background and training in education—isn't much of a surprise.

As a researcher, Pungello practices at the Frank Porter Graham Development Institute, and she's also a Research Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Developmental Psychology program. 

These are just a few of the titles she carries, and they're all telling of the Brady Education Foundation's giving strategy. Specifically, Brady's highly competitive grants—the foundation averages about four per year—are awarded for innovative research in child development, as well as the latest evaluation models for early education programs. With such a small pool of grants available, research proposals must be challenge the limits of understanding in the field.

Further, collaboration between researchers and educators plays into grant-funding in a major way; the foundation prides itself on being a place where "research and practice meet."

For instance, for the last three years, Brady has supported various research projects covering the effectiveness of Educare, a growing network of early learning centers. In 2009-2010, Brady supported researchers from the Frank Porter Graham Development Institute (where Pungello works as a scientist) in studying cognitive, language, and social-emotional development. Other years, the foundation has supported different analyses of Educare. The common thread among these projects has been an interest in researcher-educator collaboration.

Multi-year, multi-phase support for research is also a common characteristic of Pungello's giving. For instance, in 2010 and 2011 Brady funding supported a developmental study of metrics for assessing New York City's early childhood system, with a goal of providing a common set of tools across all the city's ECE agencies. From 2009-2010, the project received funding for a smaller-scale introductory investigation, and after finding that there was enough evidence to move forward, the project received continued study. 

It's clear Brady is happy to stick with ambitious projects that take years to evolve, and research fundraisers should take this into consideration. Just remember: The focus should be on collaboration around innovative research.

The foundation also funds traditional research groups, particularly universities or college-sponsored institutes throughout the country. It's not likely research-focused nonprofits will receive Brady funding —since revamping their strategy in 2008-09, all grants have gone to academic researchers. But Pungello has only led the foundation's giving for five years. Brady's strategy may continue to evolve.