Child Care Initiative Evaluation
The Child Care Initiative (CCI) was created in 2003 when the City of Philadelphia, the William Penn Foundation, and several other foundations came together in an unprecedented partnership to improve child care facilities in Greater Philadelphia. Through their commitment, the consortium has invested more than $11 million. To date, Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) has played a lead role in designing and implementing the Initiative. From 2007-2010, the Child Development Laboratory of Saint Joseph’s University evaluated the program, revealing the overall positive impact CCI had on the organizations and communities it served.
Why CCI? Facilities Impact Children’s Health, Stress, & Ability to Learn
CCI was formed to fill a gap in facilities support, based on research suggesting that facility problems can directly and indirectly threaten children’s health, safety, and opportunities for learning. A study by St. Joseph’s University found that improvements in facilities can dramatically increase the amount of time teachers interact with children.
In fact, facilities may impact the quality of care in ways that aren’t captured by standard environmental assessments. For example, the amount of play space may affect children’s stress levels. Yet many centers are under-capitalized and forced to postpone facility repairs. This involuntary neglect of facilities can powerfully impact a nonprofit’s ability to fulfill its mission, ultimately affecting the health and wellness of the children it serves.
NFF’s Theory of Change: Capital is as Effective as How it’s Given & Used
CCI is designed under the principle that nonprofits are best able to achieve sustainability through a program combining access to capital, financial advice and sector-wide collaboration. Combining these services into a single program can help create sustainable nonprofits poised to achieve greater social impact.
Access to Capital
- 242 nonprofits received access to capital (grants and loans)
- Over 50% of nonprofits that received grants served primarily low to moderate income families
- $10,580,274 in capital grants to 237 child care programs
- $4,982,875 in loans
- $224,360 in planning grants to 15 programs
Eligible centers could apply for grants (for pressing maintenance issues, renovations, and facility projects intended to improve program quality), loans, or planning grants.
NFF administered all programs, providing technical assistance during and after the application process and interim funding between grant approval and receipt of funds.
Organizations that served a larger percentage of low- to moderate-income families were given priority.
As a result of NFF’s Nonprofit Business Analysis
- 54% of the 63 nonprofits interviewed changed how financials were used in program planning
- 52% changed the way they communicated financials to external stakeholders
- 48% changed their fundraising strategy
NFF provided financial advice & analysis, education, and planning services to help grantees better manage their facilities projects and plan for future maintenance. 159 programs received consulting services (Systems Replacement Plans, Nonprofit Business Analyses, or financial diagnostics).
Some services were available to even those whose application for a capital grant was rejected. NFF administered third-party consulting services to support facility projects and assist with the City’s funding approval process.
Bringing together the right skills:
- 16 stakeholders forming an advisory group of foundations, advocacy groups, community groups, and child care providers
- 6 consultants, with expertise in playgrounds, construction, architecture, engineering, licensing, and more
- 6 funders, over the course of the Initiative
Facilities maintenance is never a one-time cost. CCI recognizes that addressing the needs of child care facilities requires ongoing funding and the expertise of a variety of consultants. Through the Initiative, NFF aims to educate policy makers and stakeholders about the value and importance of making capital funds available to child care organizations. The ultimate vision is to institutionalize a system of financial and technical assistance that contributes to the long-term health and success of these important nonprofits—and the children they help raise.
Sustainability and Impact: Better facilities, healthier organizations
Of the 125 nonprofits surveyed:
- 100% successfully completed their facility project
- 45% reported operating cost savings, such as reduced energy costs
- 70% reported notable improvements in the safety of their facility
- 82% of maintenance projects allowed centers to correct long-term deferred maintenance problems
Respondents were nearly unanimous in noting that CCI is a major component of the overall improvement of child care centers in Southeastern Pennsylvania.10 Approximately half of the programs surveyed reported that their programs and educational activities were directly improved by their facility projects. Many facilities were also able to offer a greater range of services, increasing the ages served or extending their operating hours.
Of sites that completed an expansion project, CCI funding allowed more than half of them to offer new services to children and families. In addition to the tangible successes—a new building, a beautiful renovation— improved facilities created better work environments for staff and increased morale, which, in turn, can create positive ripple effects across an organization including better programming, management, and communication.
Moving Forward for Long-Term Success
Child care advocates, public and private funders, and providers have long had concerns about the child care facilities in Philadelphia region. In coming together, the CCI consortium supported a culture of collaboration in the sector while helping individual organizations think more strategically about their financial sustainability. But change will not happen over night. By investing in a long-term commitment to the child care sector in the Philadelphia region, the CCI can ultimately play a vital role in helping vulnerable children become strong and healthy adults.