2017 ANNUAL REPORT HIGHLIGHTS
In 2017, Chambers Family Fund changed its name to Merle Chambers Fund and publicly used the new name at the end of the year. In addition to our name change, we created a new website that launched in Fall 2017.
With a significant investment in the construction of a new museum building for Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Chambers Fund reduced its arts and culture funding and prioritized its other program areas, with particular emphasis on Justice, Equality and Opportunity.
As Chambers Fund seeks upstream solutions, we believe investing in policy and advocacy, providing start-up funding and collaborating with other foundations and state agencies enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of social change. Following are some of the partnerships that advanced the foundation’s mission in 2017.
In early 2017, we partnered with three national foundations to engage Communications Consortium Media Center (CCMC) to develop principles and guideposts for anticipated national legislation regarding child care and family leave. Chambers Fund shared the concept with national foundations that collaboratively provided the approximately $200,000 required for the project. The results from polling, focus groups and expert research have been shared with numerous conference and advocacy organizations across the country.
Chambers Fund provides critical annual operating support to The Bell Policy Center (the Bell). Co-founded by Chambers Fund, the Bell continues to fulfill its mission by leading the debate on family economic security and driving public policy solutions to ensure economic mobility for all Coloradans. The Bell has been instrumental in addressing payday lending reform and, as a network partner of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, it plays a critical policy role in two-generation research and strategy. It has focused on developing two-generation strategies that tie education and training opportunities for parents with early childhood education opportunities for their children.
Colorado Center on Law & Policy (CCLP) strives to reduce or eliminate governmental, societal and economic barriers that prevent self-sufficiency and economic security. General support from Chambers Fund allows CCLP to be strategic in the work it undertakes, with the goal of bringing about measurable results and systemic change on behalf of people living in poverty. In December, CCLP released the 2017 edition of its State of Working Colorado report and is updating its Colorado Self-Sufficiency Standard to be released in 2018.
Since 2012, Chambers Fund, Rose Community Foundation and Buell Foundation have partnered with the Alliance for Early Success (the Alliance), a national organization that funds policy and advocacy in selected states. The Colorado Early Learning Policy Initiative was formed from this partnership and includes Clayton Early Learning and Colorado Children’s Campaign. It advances state level early childhood policy and capacity building objectives. In 2017, five foundations provided matching funds to ensure policy and advocacy funding from the Alliance.
The guiding principles of bipartisanship and grounding advocacy in the best and most reliable data and research continue to define the Colorado Children’s Campaign (CCC) after 25 years as the voice of Colorado’s children. Chambers Fund has provided continuous general operating support to CCC since 1997 to help ensure that Coloradans are informed about important issues related to the well-being of Colorado’s children. At the legislature and in communities across the state, CCC’s voice is heard and action is taken.
Ascend at the Aspen Institute was created to identify and elevate solutions that shift mindsets, behaviors, practices and policies that address poverty. From the beginning, Ascend believed that innovation and momentum would come from the states, leading the way forward for national change. Ascend has supported its Network Partners in Colorado, including The Bell Policy Center, Family Resource Center Association and the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS). Colorado has the largest network of Ascend partners in the United States.
For six years, Ascend has worked closely with leaders in Colorado from all sectors – nonprofit, public and private – to develop a new conversation around two-generation solutions. In late 2016, Chambers Fund and three other foundations wrote a letter of support and committed $20,000 each to match funds for a 2Gen grant from the National Governor’s Association and Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). In early 2017, the funds enabled the Governor’s office to hire a 2Gen manager and funded a statewide 2Gen conference.
In October, 2017, Ascend held its third 2Gen Policymakers Conference, this time with 2Gen planning teams from 14 states. Colorado shared its strategies, results and lessons learned with the other states. Similar to Chambers Fund’s investments in start-up organizations such as The Bell Policy Center, Tools of the Mind and Early Milestones Colorado, the investment in Ascend was forward thinking, but not without risk. As policies are reformed, funding streams align and systems become focused on whole families. Ascend is a movement with the potential to change the way services and programs are delivered and Colorado is at the forefront of this movement.
The concept for Early Milestones Colorado (Milestones) was developed by Chambers Fund, Buell Foundation and Rose Community Foundation in 2014. With the addition of other funding partners, Milestones has been successful beyond our expectations. Milestones works with local, state and national partners to advance opportunities for children. It brings evidence based and promising programs to scale in Colorado communities. The ultimate goal is to build and improve early childhood systems. Milestones is leading multi-year projects in partnership with the Office of Early Childhood, school districts and numerous foundations.
Tools of the Mind has been supported and funded by Chambers Fund for nearly ten years. It has been a research project and a curriculum implementation program that needs to be scaled to help close the achievement gap for low income students. As a Frontiers of Innovation program at Harvard, Tools has attracted national recognition resulting in a strategic planning grant from the Lego Foundation. As a funder of and advisor to Tools, Chambers Fund participated with Rose Community Foundation and Gary Community Investments in a strategic planning process that will be completed in mid-2018. The plan will include decisions regarding research, dissemination, nonprofit status, earned income opportunities and succession planning to elevate Tools to the next level as a nonprofit organization.
Chambers Fund partnered with other funders to collaboratively provide funding to continue the Colorado Family Planning Program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Reproductive Health and Family Planning Funders Group, a foundation funder collaborative, provided more than $2 million in bridge funding to continue the expanded program in 2016. The philanthropic funding was provided for only one year so the state legislature could reconsider funding for the following year. In 2016, the legislature passed a $2.5 million increase in funding for the CDPHE Family Planning Program that began in 2017. The final report on the outcomes, Taking the Unintended Out of Pregnancy: Colorado’s Success with LARC, was released in January 2017.
With this experience, combined with the anticipated federal cuts in pregnancy prevention funding, some of the foundations in the Reproductive Health and Family Planning Funders Group formed the Colorado Collaborative to research needs and provide coordinated support to continue to reduce unintended pregnancy in Colorado. Some foundations in the collaborative pooled funds and others, including Chambers Fund, made grants based on research provided by a consultant who shared information with the Colorado Collaborative. What began as a short term collaborative to provide bridge funding has become an ongoing initiative that will be able to respond quickly and provide funding to maintain some continuity in uncertain times.
Chambers Fund partnered with Dallas Women’s Foundation to update our Creating a Women’s Fund Within a Community Foundation report. The new report, Creating a Women’s Fund: A Philanthropic Strategy for Women and Girls, 2nd Edition has been published and is available on the Women’s Funding Network website. In addition to providing information on creating a women’s fund in a community foundation, the report provides a guide to creating a stand-alone women’s fund.
Chambers Fund finalized construction of a new museum building near the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver’s Golden Triangle Museum District. The new museum is an investment in the further development of the City of Denver’s nationally important art scene. The building will house Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. Groundbreaking was held at the new museum location at 12th Avenue and Bannock Street in September, 2015 and the new museum will open in March, 2018.
The Vision 2021 Capital Campaign for the renovation of the former North Building at the Denver Art Museum was announced in 2017. Chambers Fund was an early contributor to the campaign for the renovation of this architectural icon as an anchor at the south end of Civic Center Park in Denver. The new North Building, to be named the Martin Building, will complete the Denver Art Museum campus so it works seamlessly as a whole.
The Chambers 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.