Strategic Philanthropy in Education


Clients: Exponent Philanthropy (formerly Association of Small Foundations) and Annie E. Casey Foundation


Exponent Philanthropy (formerly the Association of Small Foundations), an association of philanthropic organizations with few or no staff has been finding increased interest in early childhood development among member funders who traditionally fund education and health.  At the same time, the Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) found that many of their early childhood efforts needed additional philanthropic partners to really "move the needle" for early childhood development. As a result, Exponent and AECF partnered with Duke University and hired Dovetailing to develop an educational seminar for interested funders.


While media and policymaker attention has spurred increased interest in early childhood, interested Exponent members are in various stages of development in their early childhood knowledge and strategy.  Additionally, the many contributing factors to early childhood development and the existing complex web of policy and program approaches proves daunting for those new to the field.


Realizing that the seminar participants would be in varying places along the continuum of understanding and support for early childhood development investment, Dovetailing worked with the three partners to develop a series of webinars that established basic understanding about the science of early childhood development and helped the group to develop connections through which peer learning could build. These webinars were followed by a three-day seminar at Duke University featuring presentations and problem-solving sessions with philanthropic, policy and program development leaders. Participants built on their peer relationships and clarified connections between their early childhood investments and the rest of their investment strategy as well as refining the many other aspects roles they play to advance the early childhood field. This seminar was followed by establishment of a peer network to facilitate continued peer mentoring and partnering.


Participants have continued and strengthened their support of early childhood development and in several instances, partnered with each other to advance common aims.  Exponent and AECF subsequently commissioned Dovetailing to create and present modular webinar sessions from the Duke Seminar content so that more philanthropic partners can be reached through Exponent educational programs. Education Funders in Texas commissioned Exponent to work with Dovetailing to customize a similar set of seminars and webinars focused on early childhood, K-12, and higher education strategy in the state of Texas.