“Big Gifts for Little Learners: Making the Case for Philanthropic Investment from Pregnancy through Preschool” is rooted in data from a survey of more than 150 affluent individuals and foundations in the Bay Area.

In the foreword, Dr. Chan describes the value of early care and learning– from better educational and employment outcomes to health benefits like lower adult blood pressure and reduced likelihood of illegal drug use– as well as the challenges in both availability and affordability for high-quality early care and learning in California. She also argues that “philanthropy plays a key role” in filling funding gaps, supporting innovative research, and helping to bring high-quality early care and learning programs to scale. 

The report and underlying survey results demonstrate a disconnect between the perception of early care and learning among affluent individuals and philanthropists, and the broader definition of the sector used by those operating in the space. While just 15% of respondents said they give to early care and learning when given a broader definition of the sector (including supporting health and basic needs of children), 72% of donors reported that they already give some amount to nonprofits supporting those efforts.

More than half (52%) of donors in the survey reported that they plan to give more to charity in the coming years– which means early care and learning doesn’t necessarily need to compete with other issue areas to gain additional philanthropic investment.  Demonstrating how early care and learning can connect to other areas of focus may help nonprofits operating in this space unlock additional philanthropic capital.

Over 40% of survey respondents said that demonstrated impact would lead them to choose one cause or group for donations over others.  But given the powerful research behind the return on investment of early care and learning (ROI models cited in the paper postulate that every dollar invested yields $9-$14 in value), it’s somewhat surprising that only 15% of surveyed donors said they give to early care and learning. 

Since giving can take many forms, and since donors may have different goals or giving preferences, the report outlines three ways to give:  

  • Programmatic Work, funding the community-based organizations or others doing on-the-ground work to support children and families, through either support for direct services or general operations; 
  • Advocacy/Systems Change, funding efforts to change policy, either to increase state or federal investment in early childhood or to change the policy or regulatory landscape to foster adoption of new models; and
  • Transformation, funding innovative research, including pilot testing and development of new models.

The report also lays out three lasting impacts of philanthropic investment in early care and learning:

  • Giving our youngest learners the start they need to learn, grow and develop – and setting them up for academic and economic success;
  • Supporting economic mobility for those within the early care workforce (and their children and families); and
  • Bolstering economic and community development, both by supporting employed parents and by seeding the next generation of workforce talent.

Read the entire report here.