Robins Foundation Renews “SEED” Grant Program to Continue Investing in Small, Local Non Profit Child Care Providers

In May of 2023, Robins Foundation announced a new pilot program called the SEED (“Support for Early Education and Development”) grant to provide smaller, nonprofit child care providers with flexible grants, awarded on a rolling basis.

Based on the positive impact of the program and the opportunity it provided Robins Foundation to be more responsive to the needs of smaller nonprofit childcare centers outside of our  traditional grant cycle, additional funding was recently approved to continue providing SEED grant funding with the goal of meeting ongoing community needs.

An ongoing crisis

It’s no secret that the child care sector faces massive challenges in the form of worker shortages, sub-living wages, and limited government support. While many of these challenges were evident well before the pandemic, the last three years have only compounded them, bringing the child care industry to a breaking point.  

To understand why our current child care system is struggling, it is necessary to take a look at the cost structure for child care providers. In order to meet licensing requirements and safety standards, providers must meet certain caregiver-to-child ratios: the younger children are, the higher the ratio of caregivers to children must be. These requirements are important and are in place to ensure quality and safety. But, meeting those ratios creates a cost-burden for providers and means that wages for caregivers remain painfully low, exacerbating workforce turnover and shortages. In some cases, Masters-degree holding caregivers can find the same or better wages (with benefits!) working in the fast food industry. 

To make matters worse, those hurt the most by the current child care model are our children. 80% of a child’s brain is developed by age 3 and 1 million new neural connections are made every second in the first few years of life, making quality early child care a crucial part of setting our children up for happy and successful lives. 

 Tragically, the current child care crisis puts that important early support in jeopardy. In 2022, 40.35% of all Virginia kindergarteners were not ready to start kindergarten. This percentage was even higher for students of color, multi-language learners, students with a disability, and those from low income backgrounds. Early childhood education and care are of paramount importance for each and every child in our region, and there is an urgent need for both on-going support and for creative and collaborative solutions. 

Barriers to funding

Child care organizations are strained and in need of ongoing support. In addition to the challenges providers already face, the process of applying for philanthropic funding can be onerous and time consuming. Many nonprofit organizations have their own grant writer on staff, but child care providers, especially smaller ones, struggle to pay the staff they have, much less dedicate someone’s time and role to applying for grants. 

Our foundation’s solution

In response to the on-going challenges and needs of the child care industry, Robins Foundation is continuing the nonprofit SEED grant program. Our goal is to provide small, local nonprofit child care providers located within our footprint with a simplified and responsive funding opportunity. This opportunity is open to 501c3 nonprofit child care providers who meet all of our foundation’s grant eligibility criteria. It includes a simplified application process, and offers grants of up to $25,000. 

Grant applications are reviewed on a monthly basis and will be available until the new funds are depleted. Providers who are offered a grant will be required to complete a brief final report at the end of the funding period. 

How to apply for Nonprofit SEED

We are excited to announce that our nonprofit SEED grant opportunity is now open. To be eligible for Nonprofit SEED funding, child care organizations must meet the following criteria:

  • Have 501(c)(3) nonprofit status
  • Be licensed
  • Serve children 0 to 5
  • Use a secular (nonreligious) curriculum
  • Be located in Chesterfield, Henrico, Petersburg, or the City of Richmond
  • Not currently receiving other funding from Robins Foundation.

If you meet this criteria and are in need of support, we encourage you to apply. The nonprofit SEED application can be found here.

Any organization receiving funds through the nonprofit SEED program would be ineligible to apply for funding through other Robins Foundation grants for a period of 12 months.

If you have questions about the SEED program, please contact our Early Childhood Senior Program Officer, Meg Pienkowski, Ph.D. If you have questions about the grant process or technology, please contact us at grants@robinsfdn.org.

Together, we will continue to work for and support child care solutions that benefit more families, more organizations, and more communities.