This section offers questions and examples for strategic planning on Whole Family funding
As foundations conduct regular strategic planning processes to adjust and/or revamp their work as conditions change, incorporating a whole family lens can help boards and staff to assess how to best support families for optimal success.
Your foundation likely invests in one or more areas of whole family work. As you go through strategic planning, below are questions and considerations that can expand your thinking and analysis, and ultimately improve your outcomes.
Because whole family, two-generation work takes into account so many areas of family well-being, and therefore many services, each foundation will need to approach incorporating whole family thinking differently. Here are some overarching questions to consider from various angles of whole family investing:
- Are there critical gaps for families served by our grantees that we should consider discussing with grantees, or should we plan on separate investments?
- Do grantees do more than high-level referrals for families? Track families over time and keep contact with them?
- Do grantees have a strength-based, racial equity informed approach to their work with families as staff and as organizations?
- Do we have other investments that we could link to this investment to strengthen our work?
Early Childhood Education
- How are the parents of children in programs being supported?
- Are they being offered further education, training, or employment supports to open opportunities for economic prosperity, which research shows improves children’s outcomes?
- Are they offered the other elements of whole family approaches, either through our grantee or through other organizations in the community?
LIFT works with parents referred by early childhood centers in four cities to support their career and financial success.
Education, Employment, and Training
- How are children being supported, both in early childhood and K-12?
- Do grantees ask questions about the children, about the quality of their care and overall arrangements?
- Are they in regular touch with schools and care providers to support the family holistically?
- Are parents and caregivers offered mental health, transportation, and other critical logistics supports?
In the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s STEPS initiative, workforce organizations partnered with early childhood providers to support single parents and their children in employment and childhood development. Many of the organizations also partnered with their local K-12 districts and created new relationships to support the whole family.
- Are grantees working with families and considering all aspects of their lives?
- Do they include a referral for career coaching and work with that coach to align financial needs and goals with career goals?
Delaware’s Stand By Me program has piloted a partnership with early childhood centers to provide coaching to parents and employees of the centers.
Health and Well-Being
- Do grantees have solid referrals to and relationships with organizations that offer services for all of the aspects of the social determinants of health for families?
- Do they have the staffing structures and capacity to broaden their work and perspective to account for the services families need?
Work Life Partnership provides navigators to entry-level employees at partner employers to ensure they are able to access the resources they need to keep their employment, including public benefits and community resources.
- How are grantees connecting families to specific resources through and beyond their social capital efforts?
- How could they use social capital to more efficiently support families’ well-being and prosperity?
Social capital is one of the five pillars of the Jeremiah Program’s approach, which has shown significant impact for families. Using bonding social capital (peer support within communities) and bridging social capital (connecting participants outside their community), Jeremiah has helped hundreds of families move ahead.
- Are your grantees understanding how a policy in one area (e.g., workforce) needs to take into account whole family supports and developing policies that will help families succeed?
- Do grantees ground their policy development in a deep understanding of what families need and family voices?
A Whole Family Approach to Jobs is a New England initiative working with state government, advocates, parents, and businesses to change policies to support families and whole family approaches.
- Are grantees including family voice in advocacy efforts?
- Are they partnered or in coalition with organizations that focus on family economic mobility and family success?
- Do grantees partner with advocacy groups led by parents and parents of color?
The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona brings women to the statehouse each year for a public advocacy day, preparing them in advance to speak with legislators and talk about what families need to move ahead.
Research and Evaluation
- When you commission research, are projects scoped to include parents and children in the research?
- Do researchers have a whole family frame they bring even when looking at specific content, such as housing or child care?
The General Accounting Office used a whole family lens when assessing a number of programs across the country.
The Urban Institute created a framework for whole family work that can help researchers in their framing.
- Are you as a foundation, or your grantees, evaluating projects using a whole family lens that looks at parent and child outcomes as well as whole family outcomes?
CareerAdvance in Tulsa looked at both Head Start and Early Head Start outcomes for families, as well as parent employment outcomes, to understand how whole family approaches can move all members of a family forward.
It may be helpful to consider these questions in two parts – first, as you are revisiting your vision and mission at the outset, and then again at the end, if you have incorporated some or all of a two-generation framework, how you might change your vision and mission statements.
At the outset:
Looking at the vision and mission of your foundation, what parts of whole family, two generation approaches are aligned and how?
What parts of our vision and mission reflect a two-generation approach now?
Are there other elements of two generation work that could contribute to our vision and mission, and if so, how?
Reflection at the end:
How should we change our vision and mission statements to reflect our expanded two-generation framework and strategy?
Which of our core values as a foundation are aligned with whole family approaches?
If racial equity is a core value, how does two-generation thinking inform that value? Do we recognize the systemic forces that are limiting children’s futures in part because parents themselves face barriers to employment because of their race or ethnicity? If expanding opportunity is a core value, how does two-generation thinking inform that value? When you think about expanding opportunity, is that for parents, for children, or for both?
How does a whole family approach inform how we might strengthen our values, or see them differently?
Many foundations use a SWOT analysis in their strategic planning process to recalibrate their work. Below are questions you can incorporate into a SWOT process related to whole family, two generation approaches.
- What elements of two-generation approaches are within our current portfolio?
- Are they in one investment strategy, or in several strategies? If they are in more than one strategy, do we connect them intentionally at the foundation and community level?
- As you review your current investments, where have they been most impactful? Where are you seeing the most promising outcomes for families and why? Where are you hearing of challenges that are limiting grantee outcomes?
- Where do you have questions in your current portfolio about your effectiveness? What gaps in information about whole families do you have? For example, if you invest in higher education for single mothers, do you have information about how their children are developing, or what challenges mothers are managing to care for their families while being in school? Are there more things you want to know?
- Are foundation staff engaged externally in program or policy work related to families? What has been impactful and why? What has not been as effective?
- What other philanthropies are operating in the same space with a whole family focus? Do they share a similar or at least adjacent vision, mission, and value set?
- How are they investing in whole family? Are their grantee outcomes promising?
- Are there opportunities to align your grantmaking with theirs? This might be at an organizational/grantee level, or across different kinds of grantees, depending on your foundation’s mission.
- Are there gaps across philanthropy in supporting whole family approaches? If so, what are they and why do they currently exist?
- To ground your external scan, you may want to conduct focus groups with parents to better understand what families are experiencing in your community.
- What is the current economic and social context for the community or communities in which you operate? Where do families have opportunity, and where are they limited by policy, systems, or other factors?
- What external data can help you understand the whole family context? Important lenses for all of the data will include race, ethnicity, age, and gender. Here are some data points to consider:
- Employment: employment by sector and by major occupation; wages; unemployment data
- Education: highest education level achieved
- Income: income by household type
- Early childhood education: number of affordable child care slots; number on waiting list; quality education ratings for providers and number of slots offered by those providers
- Health: percentage of families insured and uninsured; number of mental health providers accepting patients with Medicaid
- Are there whole family or whole family programs in your community you wish to explore and understand better so that they might be adapted within your investment strategy?
- What are best practices in whole family programming, and in whole family investments, that might fit your mission and context?
- What is the theory of change driving your outcomes expectations?
- What outcomes do you expect to see through your investments? Are they for families, for parents, for children?
- What is your time frame for the outcomes from those investments and what is realistic for families given the systemic challenges they encounter? What are short, medium, and long-term outcomes?
- How might you incorporate a broader set of metrics that offer a fuller understanding of family well-being and success?
Which two-generation components do you see as important to your mission and vision? How can you build those components into your investment strategy?
How might you invest differently using the whole family lens? Where might you fill gaps that would lead to better outcomes?
- Are there strategies that are about alignment of existing organizations and efforts rather than investing significant new dollars? Sometimes offering the “glue” helps to bring a community together without standing up a new program.
- Are there ways to align programming and policy investments to support scaling whole family approaches?
Are there strategies that are “nearby” or “adjacent” to your current strategies that you could incorporate? For example, if you are funding higher education programs for single moms, you could establish an adjacent strategy to fund either policy or practices to secure quality child care for the children. Similarly, if you are funding parenting strategies through early childhood centers, you could add a strategy on financial coaching, or connecting those parents to employment and training.
Where might you partner with other philanthropy to create a whole family approach?