In 2018, community leaders, activists, and funders in Whatcom County, WA, were examining the most pressing issues in the community. Lack of child care, mental health programs, and stable housing supports persisted as the most critical issues preventing the county’s children from having a safe and healthy start in life. However, at the time, almost all county spending focused on crisis management created by the lack of these services, which made it challenging for local leaders to make significant investments in programs to support children and families and prevent these inequitable outcomes.

In response to the lack of sustainable funding, county advocates convened to focus on, among other things, identifying new funding streams to support the county’s goals for kids. The group attended Children’s Funding Project’s first Children’s Funding Institute in Denver, CO, in 2019 to learn about possible ways to establish a public funding stream for children and youth.

“From the beginning, Children’s Funding Project was by far the most instrumental support in helping Whatcom County move from theoretical discussions and dreams to taking action and making a campaign for children possible in our community,” says Heather Flaherty, executive director of the Chuckanut Health Foundation and one of the key leaders throughout Whatcom’s effort. “Without [Children’s Funding Project] and the ways they showed us how to turn ideas into community-wide commitments, we would not be able to make the impacts we are poised to make for children and families and the future vibrancy of our county.”

In 2022, advocates established a new Children’s Initiative group that began the process of pursuing a ballot measure that would dedicate new property tax revenue to child care, mental health programs, and housing support. The group drafted the potential ordinance with feedback from community leaders and experts and successfully advocated for the Whatcom County Council to place the question on the November 2022 ballot. The Yes for Whatcom Kids campaign launched, focusing on community and voter outreach. Campaign members knocked on thousands of doors to build support for the ballot measure; called and texted potential voters; released digital, radio, and television advertisements; and met with various community, business, and policy groups to win their endorsements.

As members of our children’s funding cohort, Whatcom’s campaign leaders received ongoing coaching from Children’s Funding Project’s staff and learned from similar campaign efforts from across the country. “As a group of citizens campaigning for a public funding stream, there were so many things we needed to learn,” says Meredith Hayes, a parent, community advocate, and one of the campaign’s leaders. “[Children’s Funding Project’s] toolkits, technical assistance, and willingness to connect us with experts around the country at the drop of a hat were instrumental in getting the Healthy Children’s Fund passed in Whatcom County.” The Healthy Children’s Fund, which Whatcom voters passed in November 2022, will raise an estimated $10 million annually to fund high-quality affordable child care, mental and behavioral health services, and housing programs for vulnerable infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children. The successful campaign provided advocates in Whatcom the opportunity to secure new dedicated dollars for the county’s children.

For more about Whatcom’s story and the Yes for Whatcom Kids campaign, read our full case study Voters Say “Yes” to Whatcom’s Kids.

For additional success stories and to learn more about our organizational impact, read our five-year impact report.


Josh Weinstock is a consultant for Children’s Funding Project.