Classroom Heroes: Donors Increase Support for Education

Classroom Heroes: Donors Increase Support for Education

Trend: The pandemic spotlighted the shortcomings of education – including accessibility, opportunity and equity. It’s no surprise our donors are as focused as ever on the subject.

“After spending as many years as she did in education, Janet knew – and research has shown us – that the first five years of life is when 80% of brain development takes place. And, so, if you can help them when they are hungry to learn and grow and explore, you can make the biggest impact.” – Vickie Sproul, literacy director, Caldwell County School

At Dudley Shoals Elementary School in Granite Falls, N.C., a group of 4-year-olds gathers around a table, excitedly talking about whether to make pancakes or pizza. Before they can decide, one suggests they get ingredients for both, and the group is off and running. Meanwhile, another group is hard at work with an assortment of blocks building a “really, REALLY tall building!

The pre-K class is not in a kitchen or on a construction site. They’re outside, using their imaginations, exploring, collaborating and learning.

“What works best for 3- and 4-year-olds?” asked Vickie Sproul, literacy director of Caldwell County Schools. “Giving them outdoor learning environments is one way. Not just a playground with a swing but outdoor learning environments where they can explore and still have instruction.”

Janet Wilson recognized the importance of early childhood education and the need for those types of learning opportunities. When the longtime civic and education leader embarked on what would be the most transformative philanthropic project of her lifetime and in her community, outdoor learning environments were just one of the opportunities she provided.

Janet Wilson wanted every child in Caldwell County to have access to free pre-kindergarten education. Through her tenacity and drive, and with a transformative philanthropic investment and remarkable humility, she made it happen.

Janet might have helped lead the way, but she was far from alone in her dedication to education.

From scholarships and after-school enrichment programs to college readiness and access to technology, many FFTC donors are committed to supporting education and creating a more equitable future. Recognizing the critical role education plays in improving economic mobility, FFTC fundholders are increasingly directing their gifts to nonprofits and initiatives that are addressing disparities in education.

Since 2018, charitable giving to education by FFTC fundholders has increased 98%, with a 28% increase occurring from 2021 to 2022 as donors continue to help close the gaps that became even wider during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation saw a record year in 2022 with its support of students and their families. A regional affiliate and grantmaking arm of FFTC, CMCF awarded $550,000 in grants to 26 local nonprofits who are working to fill gaps between public and private services and provide opportunities for those who need them most.

Among the 26 grants were: Ada Jenkins Center to provide afterschool academic support and enrichment programming for elementary students, Carolina Youth Coalition to provide high school students with mentors and college-preparatory resources, E2D to provide computers for students lacking home-based computers sufficient to do their work, Hack & Hustle Social Entrepreneurship Academy to provide an introductory STEM training program for ages 16-24, and Heart Math Tutoring to provide a math intervention program for students performing below grade level in CMS elementary schools.

One small community has been impacted by this trend in a big way, thanks to a transformative philanthropic vision and investment by the late Janet Wilson.


To continue reading our 2022-2023 annual report, visit: here.