Chambers Family Fund contributed $2.7 million in 2011, making 123 grants to support nonprofit organizations and initiatives. Most of the funding was to organizations that implement and advocate for upstream solutions within the foundation’s program areas. A portion of the funding provided continuing support for our honored commitments – arts, culture and faith-based organizations that enrich the quality of life in Colorado.
Through continuing multi-year grant commitments and a small number of new commitments, the foundation played a key role in the early care and education systems change in Colorado and invested in a new curriculum for preschool and kindergarten children that has national implications. Chambers Family Fund took a leadership role in the formation of a unique research and fellowship program helping multiple generations rise out of poverty, continued its support of women’s funds, and championed arts and culture in Colorado.
Early Care and Education
Chambers Family Fund has supported state systems change efforts for over a decade, with public-private partnerships serving an instrumental role in achieving a statewide, unified approach to early childhood education. In 2011, early education systems change and advocacy resulted in changes at the highest levels of government in Colorado. An early childhood commission was created that made recommendations for an Office of Early Childhood within the Department of Human Services, providing the first early childhood governance structure in Colorado, and the first formal structure to address young children’s needs. Through this office, the Department of Human Services will be able to create efficiencies and increase effectiveness by consolidating the funding streams and staffing of early childhood into one state department.
A new grantee in 2011, Tools of the Mind has shown promise in developing an early childhood education curriculum that improves a child’s ability to learn while increasing preparedness for future grade levels. With the support of Chambers Family Fund, Tools of the Mind is establishing an independent nonprofit organization that will be positioned to expand its impact nationally. The curriculum is based on the growing research that self-regulation, or the ability to pay attention, plan actions, reflect on thinking, and cooperate and act empathetically toward peers, has a stronger association with academic achievement than IQ or entry-level reading or math skills. Children in Tools of the Mind classrooms learn self-regulation skills along with traditional core subjects.
With funding from Chambers Family Fund and other foundations and corporations, Colorado Children’s Campaign led the School Finance Partnership. This coalition of education experts, elected officials and business leaders, examined the 1994 School Finance Act, which provides the majority of Colorado’s annual funding to public schools. The partnership considered options and alternatives to improve upon the act and will present recommendations for an innovative overhaul to the state’s mechanism for funding public schools in 2012. The recommendations have the potential to dramatically change how schools and programs are funded and to reallocate the funding with the goal of improved outcomes in Colorado’s public schools.
Colorado Early Learning Partnership (CELP), created by Chambers Family Fund, Rose Community Foundation and Buell Foundation, gathered data from around the state in meetings with hundreds of stakeholders in rural and urban areas to discuss this critical topic for Colorado children and parents. The project will be documented in a full report; synthesizing the successes, challenges, needs, and concerns of those involved with early education. The report, with its recommendations to improve early learning in Colorado, is expected to be completed in March of 2012, followed by a series of stakeholder meetings to present the recommendations.
Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency
Ascend at The Aspen Institute advances a two-generation strategy for lifting families out of poverty. The overarching goal of Ascend is to identify and elevate effective practices and innovative ideas at the community level and to build a network of leaders who have the potential to create and scale transformative models. Within its first year, and with funding from the foundation, Ascend will become a hub for breakthrough ideas and proven strategies that will help parents and their children rise out of poverty. At the heart of the program is an 18-month fellowship designed to bring together leaders who are pioneering two-generation approaches.
The year also provided additional growth opportunities for the women’s funds created and supported by Chambers Family Fund. We continue to provide general support to three statewide women’s funds and matching funds for endowment growth at the Fargo-Morehead and Grand Forks women’s funds in North Dakota.
Justice, Equality and Opportunity
The Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP) is an established leader in poverty reduction and promoting economic self-sufficiency. CCLP brings together a diverse community of nonprofit agencies working for change to promote economic opportunity for low-income families. The work of those agencies can be fragmented and underfunded and too often cannot promote the systemic change that is required to help families reach long-term economic security. Our support of CCLP is a strategic investment in the infrastructure and leadership of Colorado’s poverty-reduction movement with the intent to identify solutions, spread those solutions across the state, and reduce unnecessary duplication. Meaningful progress will require coordinated efforts among people living in poverty, advocates, state and local governments, service providers, and building public will for change. With funding from Chambers Family Fund, CCLP has produced the Self-Sufficiency Standard for Colorado and its online companion calculator. That set of tools has given organizations a common language as they work together to help families achieve self-sufficiency and economic security.
Since The Bell Policy Center was co-founded by Chambers Family Fund in 2000, the foundation has provided annual operating support for its leading research and collaborative work. This financial support has benefited The Bell’s work in addressing Colorado’s fiscal challenges, a priority for the foundation in 2011. Funding of The Bell reflects our ongoing support of organizations that address systems change over many years, making progress on reform and meeting new challenges. Chambers Family Fund believes that The Bell’s leadership is essential to coming together as a state to address the structural budget gap.
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art receives annual funding from Chambers Family Fund, enabling it to maintain a nationally-significant decorative arts collection and provide a permanent venue for the display of Colorado art. More than 13,000 individuals visited the museum in 2011, in part because of the new exhibitions that were mounted and the diligent work of the growing volunteer corps to enhance the visitor experience. Of the exhibitions, 15 Colorado Artists: Breaking with Tradition, received national coverage in the American Art Review magazine for its recognition of the impact these artists had on the 1940’s arts scene in Colorado.
The museum built upon its successful partnerships and community engagement efforts through member events, participation in Doors Open Denver, loaning 380 pieces to five separate institutions, and through a museum exhibition presented at the Arvada Center. In addition, the museum curated Colorado Abstract Expressionism from Kirkland Museum to coincide with the historic opening of the Clyfford Still Museum.
The foundation’s four program areas guide the funding decisions of Chambers Family Fund and help ensure the family’s funding priorities are met each year. The foundation also makes grants to select organizations that fall outside of the program areas in recognition of the important role they play in our state. In 2011 Chambers Family Fund was pleased to participate in the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum as a major funding partner in the construction of the new building. The foundation also provided essential operating support to several other arts organizations, including Colorado Symphony and Opera Colorado. With financial support from a grant made in 2011, the foundation looks forward to the first major American museum exhibition of Abstract Expressionist works by women artists that will be curated and presented by the Denver Art Museum.
The Chambers Family Fund board of directors is grateful to the many outstanding organizations in Colorado and around the country that work each day to provide opportunities for success and improved quality of life for those who need it most.
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