THE BAINUM FAMILY FOUNDATION was established in 1968 by Stewart Sr. and Jane Bainum to provide educational support to children whose families faced economic hardship. Our work initially focused on young adults and school-age children, and our interventions were made largely to benefit individual students and schools.
In 2015, based on insights gained from our previous work, we shifted our focus to the earliest years (ages 0–8). We made early learning a priority and broadened our scope to include wraparound supports (such as food security and school mental health) that contribute to a child’s overall well-being. We also began to support change at a systems level for greater impact, taking into consideration the critical role played by policymakers and caregivers (including families and educators).
We strive to be a learning organization and to evolve our work to meet changing community needs. What we’ve learned over this most recent phase of our work — supported by a growing body of research — is that intervening earlier in a child’s life, in a more comprehensive way and with increased consideration of the child’s broader environment, produces better long-term outcomes.
In 2019, as we moved to conclude and assess the work of our 2015 strategic plan, we began thinking about the future of our organization and how we could generate the greatest impact for children and families. Like everyone, our plans were disrupted and delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to redirect our attention to support our partner organizations and communities. Despite this, we were able to invest the time and effort needed to thoughtfully explore and develop our new strategy, examining its organizational, programmatic and operational components.
Throughout this process, we have been uniquely challenged to consider what role we, as a funder, have historically played in perpetuating unequal power dynamics, systems of racial inequity and economic divides between our organization and the families and communities we exist to support. Through critical internal reflection, we identified areas where we want to improve, change and evolve.
By 2021, we were able to begin implementing this new strategy and operationalizing the corresponding organizational changes. This “Year in Review,” which captures our 2021–2022 fiscal year (July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022), shares the story of our thinking, what led us to our new strategic direction and where we are in implementing this new phase of our journey.