TITLE: Program Officer
FUNDING AREAS: Early education advocacy, family literacy, and early education programs
CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)
IP TAKE: At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, one of the country's largest early ed funder, Bianchi's grantmaking focuses on advocacy at the national, local, and state levels, and he wields influence in that arena.
PROFILE: Jon-Paul Bianchi has been behind a few major gifts in his time as a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF). The biggest of these—a $9 million gift to the Kansas-based Birth to Five Policy Alliance— might be the most telling about his role in WKKF's education giving.
WKKF's Educated Kids program supports learning programs, family empowerment organizations, whole child development, lifelong learning, and education advocacy. As a program officer, Bianchi is a main point person when it comes to early education advocacy, and his grants support a network of groups working at the national, local, and state levels.
Sure, the multiyear Birth to Five grant was huge, but that shouldn't discourage smaller, more locally focused groups from seeking out WKKF's support. In fact, Bianchi's history as a grantmaker shows an eagerness to build relationship with grantees—large, midsize, and small—to achieve common goals in early education. "Our most successful grantees tend to focus on understanding a problem from the perspective of the community facing it before they act," Bianchi told IP. "Many of our successful grantees started as very small investments to build authentic relationships with community and investigate together possible interventions."
Bianchi has experience building authentic relationships in this realm. Prior to joining WKKF, he was the Early Childhood Initiatives Director at Colorado Children's Campaign, focusing on statewide initiatives that served early childhood improvements. Prior to that, he was a project assistant at University of Wisconsin-Madison for human development and family studies, which he did while receiving his master's degree in that same department.
Now at Kellogg, in addition to supporting Birth to Five, Bianchi's grantmaking has also provided continued support for Ounce of Prevention, one of the nation's leading early ed advocates. At the national level, WKKF has established partnerships with the major players, but local advocacy is one area that's wide open for small and midsize nonprofits.
A $180,000 grant to the Hopa Mountain Foundation in Bozeman, Montana, is one recent example of a local advocacy program Bianchi has supported. The grant helped expand an early literacy program by training health-care professionals and educators to encourage parental support in early childhood learning. Bianchi seems to seek out programs at the national and local levels that are highly collaborative and involve as many stakeholders as possible, which is certainly the case with the Bozeman grant.
Of course, policy and family learning advocacy is a major focus in Bianchi's strategy, but another funding priority seems to be academic research. Strong research is essential to inform the policy debate, which fits right into the Educated Kids goals. Past research grants have gone to the University of Chicago and Institute for Women's Policy Research.
The other areas of WKKF's education program, which focuses on communities with a high need for education programs, are covered to a lesser extent by Kellogg grants. For instance, grants from the Family Literacy program support projects that increase the involvement of caregivers in a child's developmental years. In the past, some grants supported by Bianchi have been a hybrid of Family Literacy and Advocacy, involving as many stakeholders as possible, while educating the public about the importance of involvement.