Fueling Learning Through Impact Investing: 2020 Successes of the Early Learning Facilities Fund

Now more than ever, our community needs high-quality early childhood education that strengthens the stability and resilience of children, families, and our community. Learn how impact investing has fueled the creation of jobs and early learning spaces over the past year and what’s ahead for this work.

By Stephen Robinson, Senior Philanthropic Advisor

In early 2020, Seattle Foundation authorized a $1 million impact investment into the Early Learning Facilities Fund through our partners at Craft3. Even before the pandemic, Washington was short thousands of early learning centers and childcare openings. Financing of early learning childcare facilities—to build new centers and renovate existing ones—was a major barrier to expansion of pre-K and early childhood programs. Rapid population growth, rising building and commercial property costs, and displacement of existing childcare programs contributed to the shortage. Data showed that in 2019, less than 50% of three- and four-year-olds in our state were entering kindergarten ready to learn.

Given this incredible need and opportunity, we invited our philanthropic partners to co-invest with us in this critical effort. Through the generosity of nine Seattle Foundation fundholders, we enhanced our contribution by $450,000 for a total investment of $1.45 million.

Then the compounding crises of the past year took hold, taking a heavy toll on our communities and making it clear how broken our early learning and childcare systems are. It is proven that high-quality early childhood education and care strengthen child, family, and community stability and resilience. We are grateful for the foresight of our philanthropic partners to invest in childcare and early learning education as a cornerstone of our economic and community infrastructure, especially now as we look to rebuild a more equitable region going forward.

The Early Learning Facilities Fund provides capital to support quality care to our next generation by investing in business start-up and expansion, equipment, furniture, building purchase, and tenant improvements. Over the next four years, Craft3 will prioritize investments in early learning centers in urban and rural communities to:

Despite the challenging conditions of the past year, the Fund closed on two commercial loans totaling $190,000, which created 134 new quality early learning slots and 17.5 new jobs, and helped retain 11 jobs during the pandemic. Craft3 also took this time to improve their lending practices to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs, as well as develop a loan product to reduce credit barriers for BIPOC entrepreneurs requesting loans under $250,000.

We are encouraged by this early success through a time of such devastation and uncertainty. With the world emerging from this period of isolation and distance, there will be a growing need for quality, accessible, and safe childcare, and in turn, an increased demand for support through the Early Learning Facilities Fund. We are reassured by the fact that this resource exists for our community and appreciate the bold leadership of Craft3, our trustees, and philanthropic partners in preparing for this moment.

Seattle Foundation hosts a variety of impact investment opportunities that allow people to put more of their philanthropic capital to work in our communities now. Our suite of curated impact investments, such as the Evergreen Impact Housing Fund and Community Investment Guarantee Pool, are available for investment. We are also proud of our recently retooled Socially Responsible Investment Pool, which allows community members to invest in racial justice and divest from the prison industrial complex, as well as divest from oil by updating their fund’s investment strategy and pool.

Contact your philanthropic advisor to learn more about adding an impact investment to your portfolio or updating your fund’s investment pool to create more impact. If you are interested in starting a fund with Seattle Foundation, please reach out to [email protected].