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Our Work

Strategic Public Financing

Strategic public financing is a process that allows states and communities to assess their current spending, assign a cost to their goals and policy priorities for children and youth and, ultimately, to identify ways to cover those costs. It often builds on existing communitywide goals or strategic plans to answer these three questions:
  1. Current investment: How much funding supports our goals right now?
  2. True cost: How much will it cost to fully fund our goals?
  3. New funding: How do we fill the gap between current funding and needed funding?
We help communities and states answer these questions by knitting together three separate offerings from Children’s Funding Project—fiscal mapping, cost estimation and modeling, and research into potential sources of funding. Together, these components create a financial picture that supports the efforts of advocates and policymakers to move toward coordinated and sustainable funding for child- and youth-serving programs. Our approach empowers state and community leaders to put their money where their goals are by pairing existing priorities with complete fiscal data, sound cost estimates, and feasible options for covering estimated costs.

While the core activities of our services remain consistent, we tailor our work to the unique context of states, communities, and Native nations; their specific goals; and their purpose for pursuing strategic public financing as a method for supporting children and youth. For example, in 2021, we supported early childhood advocates in Wisconsin to understand current investments in, the true costs associated with, and potential new revenue sources for implementing their strategic goals for infants and toddlers. In 2023, we began a similar project with the state of Arizona focused on extending strategic public financing to localities and Native nations. Locally, in Cleveland, OH, in 2023 we began supporting efforts to expand out-of-school time programming for school-aged children. Meanwhile, in Austin, TX, we helped local leaders increase access to early care and education for infants, toddlers, and 3-year-olds while increasing compensation for teachers.

We designed our approach to help communities and states develop both a strategic public financing plan and the lasting local expertise necessary to analyze, build upon, and update this plan for years to come. For this reason, we designed the role of children’s funding coordinators, a dedicated position embedded within a community or state that we help a local organization hire, train, and supervise. Hiring a children’s funding coordinator creates a position focused on the management, relationship building, strategic thinking, data collection, analysis, and research that strategic public financing requires. (Contact us for a sample job description.) States and localities can benefit from having a person who wakes up every day thinking about the money that supports the programs and services our kids need at a communitywide level. 

How do you know if you’re ready to pursue strategic public financing?
While some states and communities are prepared to tackle all three components of the process immediately, others may first need to lay the groundwork to set themselves up for success. In assessing readiness we advise you to consider the following:
  1. Human capacity
    • Do you have a lead organization with the time, key relationships, and support staff to take on and sustain your strategic financing effort?
    • Alternatively, if you want a children’s funding coordinator to lead this work, do you have the financial resources to hire and sustain a new full-time position?
    • We believe that candidates who represent the diversity of the communities they serve and have lived experience with the issues they will support provide the most value as children’s funding coordinators. Do you have relationships to organizations or networks in your community that will allow you to effectively recruit these kinds of candidates?
  2. Clear and measurable goals or policy priorities
    •  Do you have an established strategic plan that can clearly answer the question, “What do you want to fund?”
    •  Do your goals have clear geographic boundaries?
    •  Do your goals have clear service provision and an age-range focus?
    • Are you pursuing this work with a specific time frame in mind, such as a specific election cycle or time bound funding opportunity?
  3. Access to relevant data
    • Do you have relationships with local and state budget holders that enable you to access necessary fiscal and budgetary information?
    • Do you have relationships with program providers that enable you to access data necessary for cost modeling, such as market rates, overhead costs, and wage scales?
  4. Diverse and engaged coalition
    • Does your coalition include and have buy-in from key partners, including local and state policymakers, direct service providers, youth, families, business leaders, and philanthropic leaders?
If you can concretely answer these questions, you are well prepared to pursue strategic public financing. If you cannot, we may be able to recommend sources for support to help you get ready.
How children's funding project helps


We codevelop a strategic public financing plan aligned to your goals for children and youth and guide you through the process.


We help organizations develop children’s funding coordinator positions and hire qualified candidates.


We train and support your children’s funding coordinator through the strategic public financing process.


We provide you with resources to grow and expand expertise in your community.

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Contact us to find out how we can help in your community.