Vanguard Strong Start for Kids™ was established in 2016 to harness the collective power of charitable giving by our company and crew. The program supports early childhood development with the goal of helping children growing up in poverty to be kindergarten-ready.
Vanguard Strong Start for Kids provides funding and volunteers to give children the opportunity to grow, thrive, and learn, with a focus on improving school readiness for those growing up in poverty. We focus our efforts in the high-need communities closest to where our crew work and live (Greater Philadelphia, Phoenix, Charlotte, and London), though we also advocate for change nationally and at the state level. The program is supported by our generous crew and corporate commitments.
Investments aimed at providing a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment from before birth to age 5 have long-term impacts for children growing up in poverty. Early development influences everything from kindergarten readiness to high school graduation to stable employment and health care costs.
Nobel laureate economist James Heckman put it well: “The research shows that high-quality birth-to-5 programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13%-per-year return on investment—a rate substantially higher than the 7% to 10% return previously established for preschool programs serving 3- to 4-year-olds. Significant gains are realized through better outcomes in education, health, social behaviors, and employment.”1
Children don't get a say in the world they're born into. They don't choose their families, home life, or community--or even if they have a place to call home.
The first five years of life, when kids' brains are the most flexible and adaptable, are a critical period for learning and growth.
Experiences and relationships formed in those years build a foundation for future learning and success. The impact can last a lifetime.
Compounding situations like income inequality, racism, education inequity, and other pressing social conditions have prevented generations of children from reaching their full potential.
At Vanguard, we believe that every child has a right to a Strong Start. From bedtime stories with family, to safe, green neighborhood spaces to play, to nurturing communities, every child needs and deserves the opportunity to learn, grow, and explore.
This belief is backed by empirical evidence that high-quality early experiences have the power to change a vulnerable child's trajectory.
Kids with access to high-quality early education are 25% more likely to graduate high school, four times more likely to have completed a bachelor's degree or higher, and earn up to 25% more in wages as an adult.
Strong Start for Kids invests in evidence-based approaches to build and support resilient families, help them withstand the stressors of poverty, and understand their role in their child's development, support effective early learning programs with well-trained, well-compensated teachers, and strengthen communities that advance early learning and support the children and families that live in them.
These types of critical investments in the lives of young children today, are an important first step in creating a robust workforce for tomorrow.
What's true for our investors is true for the youngest in our communities: by investing early, we help give children the best chance for success.
Our research-based approach focuses on building an equitable ecosystem of early learning supports for young children. We invest in resilient families, effective programs, and connected communities to achieve the goal of more children becoming school-ready.
As of December 2021, the program has:
Funded 130 projects totaling $58 million.
Served 500,000 people.
Invested in the creation of nearly 2,200 new child care/pre-K seats.
Helped retain more than 31,000 seats at centers that faced the prospect of permanent closure during the COVID-19 crisis.
Invested in advocacy that increased state budget allocations by more than $12 million, making another 2,100 subsidized pre-K seats available to low-income families.
Download Strong Start for Kids annual reports from previous years:
View the 2020 SSfK annual report
View the 2019 SSfK annual report
Since its inception, Strong Start for Kids has made grants that seek to improve racial disparities among children of color so all young children benefit from equitable access to a robust ecosystem of support. We also continue to focus on inclusion and engagement of underserved stakeholders in the growth and evolution of the early learning sector.
In addition to our enduring commitment to children and families living in poverty, we have invested more than $17 million as of December 2021 in nonprofit organizations led by people of color, which historically have been awarded less grant money than nonprofits with white leaders. Overall, we are on a path to determine how these approaches and the others shown in the graphic help us address disparities and focus our investments on equity.
Vanguard Strong Start for Kids is supported by our crew's volunteer time and talent along with generous contributions during an annual giving campaign, including a 100% company match and additional corporate dollars.
The program operates with the advice, feedback, and partnership of many individuals and Vanguard teams. The team overseeing Strong Start for Kids has expertise in early childhood education, community organizing, philanthropy, and business leadership and is immersed in the systems that influence the lives of children in our communities.
These dedicated professionals use a research-driven approach to grant selection. At this time, we do not accept unsolicited proposals.