2018 ANNUAL REPORT HIGHLIGHTS
In 2018, Merle Chambers Fund (Chambers Fund) continued to invest in policy and advocacy and to collaborate with other foundations, nonprofits and state agencies to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of social change. The Board of Directors reviewed the program area names and renamed two program areas to more closely reflect the funding and the foundation’s priorities. Justice, Equality and Opportunity became Social Justice and Equity, and Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency became Women’s Economic Security.
Chambers Fund continued to provide annual operating support to the women’s funds that it established and to promote women’s philanthropy and the expansion of women’s funds. The funds established by Chambers Fund are approaching 20 year anniversaries and celebrating the successes in each state – Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma. Women’s philanthropy continues to expand and we are proud of the role Chambers Fund played in partnership with Texas Women’s Foundation to release Creating a Women’s Fund: A Philanthropic Strategy for Women and Girls in 2017.
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art reopened to the public on March 10, 2018 in its new location in Denver’s Golden Triangle Creative District. The opening marked the completion of the foundation’s funding of the new museum building. This is an investment in the further development of the Denver’s nationally important art scene.
Chambers Fund provided general support funding for The Bell Policy Center (the Bell) to research major issue areas including costs and characteristics of Colorado’s middle class, women and wages and strengthening working families. The Bell’s legislative advocacy continues to focus on savings and retirement security, overtime threshold, Medicaid buy-in, child care subsidy expansion and fiscal policy advocacy. The Bell also monitors prior successes such as payday lending reform.
The Bell has become known for its leadership on two-generation policies and strategies. The Bell shares its research broadly with the goal of making economic mobility for every Coloradan a reality. Its advocacy work reframes the conversation for policymakers and creates initiatives that lead to change. The Bell’s research and policy proposals show the way to a brighter future where education and child care are more affordable and building wealth for the next generation is possible for all families, not just a lucky few.
Ascend at the Aspen Institute (Ascend) takes a two-generation (also referred to as 2Gen) approach to its work, focusing on children and their parents together and bringing a gender and racial equity lens to its analysis. To advance opportunity for children and families, Ascend has led the nation in researching and promoting the two-generation movement. Chambers Fund provided founding support of $1 million and subsequent support of $500,000. Ascend invests in diverse entrepreneurial leadership and a national network of early childhood, health, higher education, philanthropic and human services organizations; fuels transformative state and county policy that helps bring new ideas to scale; and catalyzes innovation and learning to accelerate opportunities for children and families.
Colorado has benefitted from Ascend’s leadership. To address intergenerational poverty and its impact on families, Colorado adopted a two-generation approach and the Governor made 2Gen a cornerstone of his administration. In 2018, the Governor’s office released Strengthening Colorado Families an action plan developed by state agencies to use family-based, two-generation approaches to fight intergenerational poverty. The action plan and data sharing are central to the plan, and the state two-generation program coordinator in the Governor’s office, a position funded by Chambers Fund, will continue into the next administration.
Chambers Fund was a founding partner and funder of Together We Count, a two-year project that provides a framework to encourage the participation of all hard-to-reach communities in the 2020 Census. There is a growing concern about participation in the 2020 Census and the deteriorating trust between hard-to-reach communities and the federal government. The decennial census underpins political representation from the federal to local levels, the distribution of more than $600 billion in federal dollars and billions more in annual private investment. Almost every aspect of American civic and economic life is touched, guided and informed in some way by Census data.
After developing a deep understanding of the fears and motivations regarding willingness to participate in the 2020 Census, Together We Count created an engagement plan for Colorado. The plan identifies trusted organizations and individuals best positioned to deliver the message that participation in the Census is essential and beneficial for them and their communities. A citizen’s guide will allow the broader community to understand, and engage with, hard-to-reach communities to ensure their participation in the Census.
In 2001, Chambers Fund led a funding collaborative to provide support for the first Colorado Self-Sufficiency Standard report issued by Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP). With funding from Chambers Fund, CCLP issued a 2018 edition of the Colorado Self-Sufficiency Standard and a companion demographic report, Overlooked and Undercounted . The Self-Sufficiency Standard tells us what combination of income and work support is necessary to meet a family’s basic needs in each of Colorado’s 64 counties. Overlooked and Undercounted answers the question, “How many households fall below the Self-Sufficiency Standard, and who are they?”
The Self-Sufficiency Standard is a foundation for policy change, allowing CCLP and other organizations to use validated numbers in testimony on legislation or proposed rules regarding economic self-sufficiency; income thresholds for work support programs; evidence of the burden of housing and child support in high-cost areas; and policies to increase earning power of lower-income workers. The updated reports were shared with state legislators, key state agency directors, workforce centers, community colleges, county departments of human services, community-based organizational partners and funders. Direct service organizations will use the statistics in grant proposals and use the benchmarks with participants as they design budgets or plan for the future.
With Chambers Fund’s leadership and start-up funding, Early Milestones Colorado (Milestones) became a nonprofit in March 2015. The foundation continues to provide general support for Milestones to bring innovation to complex early childhood systems. Its strategists partner with funders, local communities, state agencies and national experts to create lasting improvements for children, prenatal through age eight.
In 2018, Milestones worked across the three domains of the Early Childhood Colorado Framework. In Family Support and Education, Milestones supported 16 communities to develop local child maltreatment prevention systems plans. Milestones supports the six community innovation grantees of the Transforming the Early Childhood Workforce in Colorado initiative, focused on advancing compensation, recruitment and retention.
In Health and Well-Being, Milestones served as the lead agency for LAUNCH Together, a systems-building effort to advance social and emotional health. It also educated local early childhood and health stakeholders concerning behavioral health integration opportunities.
In Learning and Development, Milestones worked with community leaders on the model design and cost for a Summit County Universal Pre-K program and incorporated recommendations on birth-to-eight systems considerations to enhance potential child outcomes. Milestones partnered with Jefferson County Public Schools on program model and cost projections for Pre-K expansion and will support the creation of a more comprehensive birth-to-eight Bright Futures Roadmap. Colorado is fortunate to have the collective experience, vision and partnership that enabled the creation and continued success of Milestones.
Chambers Fund provided general support funding for Early Milestones Colorado, the Early Childhood Leadership Commission and Colorado Children’s Campaign. In 2018, these three organizations partnered to develop early childhood information for the transition of the state administration. The new Colorado Governor has prioritized universal preschool programs and philanthropic partners and state policymakers plan to work with the new Governor on this initiative.