Friends and colleagues,
I am thrilled to welcome you to Overdeck Family Foundation’s 2022 Grantmaking & Impact Report. Here, you will find a comprehensive overview of what our team accomplished this year, including data on our grantmaking and our grantees’ impact, as well as Bright Spots highlighting just some of the many exceptional organizations we are lucky to fund.
As I look back at this past year, I feel both pride and a sense of responsibility. Our team has achieved so much, disbursing $50.6 million to 97 organizations that collectively reach 57 million children, two million families, and 147,000 educators. We’ve added 35 new grantees to our portfolio, deepening our investments in the areas of early childhood, informal STEM education, and K-9 programs that include supporting educators and student-centered learning environments. And yet, there’s so much more to do to continue making strides against our mission of measurably enhancing education inside and outside the classroom.
The education landscape in 2022 was tumultuous and ever-changing, with COVID-19 continuing to weigh heavily on our children’s educational lives and possibilities. Every few weeks, we learn more about the effects of school closures, with the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress revealing dramatic declines in math and reading scores for our country’s fourth and eighth graders. These scores serve as a painful testament to the extent to which the pandemic impacted our children’s learning, and also an important driving force for policies and solutions that can create measurable change to get our children back on track. Recovery will be slow going, and if research is indicative, it will also be heavily unequal, with age and income-based achievement gaps, which existed before the pandemic, widening even further. And these dismal results don’t even tell the whole story, because behind the academic learning loss there is also the incredible socioemotional toll that the pandemic has had on students and their families, with 37 percent of high school students reporting poor mental health during the first half of 2021.
In many ways, the challenges faced by children are exacerbated by the adults around them. Teacher shortages, long-predicted to negatively impact our schools, are officially here. Though more localized than national, they too most negatively affect those students who are already furthest behind. Our youngest learners are perhaps even more impacted, with the childcare industry decimated by COVID and too few spots available for the millions of children who need supportive care in the early years. For example, 43 percent of parents say it has been much harder to find child care over the past year, which is not surprising given childcare employment is still eight percent below pre-pandemic levels. Caring adults are a core component of how children learn, and we see the effects of too few adults not just during the “school day,” but outside of it. The out-of-school industry continues to be deeply impacted by the pandemic, with 67 percent of principals and 61 percent of afterschool providers pointing to recruitment and retention of qualified employees as a major challenge.
The Bright Side
Yet amidst the challenges, there were rays of hope—evidence-based solutions with the potential to help children catch up and regain their footing. For example, states and districts nationwide have invested in high-impact tutoring, one of the few evidence-based interventions shown to accelerate learning. Organizations like our grantee Accelerate are leading the charge to integrate tutoring into U.S. public schools, while building the evidence base to understand impact. And Saga Education, a leader in high-impact tutoring, has been doing the important work of not only scaling its model, but providing technical assistance to others who want to replicate it.
Innovative solutions for addressing teacher shortages have also emerged, including differentiated staffing models that provide educators the opportunity to specialize in content, train other teachers, and distribute workload amidst teams. Grantees doing this work, such as Next Education Workforce at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture, have seen emerging signs of success for both teacher engagement and student outcomes: 75 percent of Next team-based teachers report being satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, compared to 66 percent of teachers in non-team-based models, and students in Opportunity Culture schools gain an additional 0.8 years of ELA learning in one year.
In the early childhood space, the field has embraced the importance of family engagement and high-quality early learning opportunities as a way to improve both academic and socioemotional outcomes. Grantees in this space, including Springboard Collaborative, TalkingPoints, and Tools of the Mind, have all seen immense growth over the past year, increasing their student reach by 57, 47, and 33 percent respectively. And out-of-school programs, such as grantees Learn Fresh, EiE, and DiscoverE’s Future City, continue to re-engage children in learning by making it not only rigorous, but experiential, relevant, and most importantly, fun.
Internally, this has been a year of growth and adjustment. We strengthened our team by announcing internal leadership elevations for two colleagues; adding three team members to improve internal operations, investments, and support of grantees; and updating our return-to-office policy to ensure adequate in-person time for cross-functional collaboration, learning, and connection. We expanded our capacity-building strategy to provide frequently requested support in key areas aligned to grantee needs. And in response to grantee feedback, we rolled out a new grant management system to streamline and improve the clarity and efficiency of our systems.
Aligned with our funding model, these updates ensure that we have the internal capacity to be responsive to grantee needs while effectively identifying and fueling the scale of cost-effective, sustainable programs and solutions that accelerate improvement in academic and socioemotional outcomes for all children.
Unlocking Innovation, Evidence, and Growth
Our internal improvements played a key role in our ability to help grantees innovate, build evidence, and grow in 2022. Key achievements of our funding included:
- 18 early stage organizations funded and 16 new program models developed, with many of them continuing to combine the “best of” both virtual and in-person interventions;
- 31 research studies and knowledge products generated, with 10 of those influencing either practice or policy on a national or local level;
- Two grantees increasing Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) tiers, with 49 grantees total meeting ESSA tier standards;
- 42 grantees increasing reach and 34 increasing earned revenue, often by offering more cost-effective, tech-based, scalable models; and
- 21 grantees strengthening key capacities in communications, impact evaluation, financial planning, and strategic growth/market demand through capacity building.
The grantmaking successes above were only possible because of our team’s commitment to sourcing, funding, and supporting impactful organizations across the education sector. Hard work is never easy, but we’re encouraged to see that what we’re doing and how we’re doing it is making an impact—and resonating with our grantee partners.
Our 2022 Pulse Grantee Perception Report, administered by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), revealed that our ratings for impact on the field and advancing field knowledge continued to increase since last year, ranking us in the top quartile of funders at the 81st percentile and 92nd percentile, respectively. We’ve also seen a significant increase in ratings over the last two years for our impact on our grantees’ organizations, with notably high scores for exhibiting trust, respect, and compassion. Grantee ratings for the helpfulness of our selection process also significantly increased compared to last year—a validation of the changes we have made to our grantmaking process.
Biggest Opportunities in 2023
Each year, we reflect on what’s working and what’s not, to help us better understand what to prioritize for the coming year. Below are three areas on which we’re excited to focus our energy in the year ahead, and some ideas for how we’ll do so.
- Strengthening Grantee Relationships: The CEP pulse report identified a decrease in grantee comfort with approaching Foundation staff should a problem arise. We know that deep and trusting relationships are imperative to our success, so we take this feedback seriously. Aligned with our organizational values of connecting genuinely; thinking and acting with rigor; and learning better, together, we will seek to understand what has led to this perception and how we can mitigate and improve it. In the year ahead, we will also strengthen our commitment to being collaborative partners to our grantees, working hand-in-hand to help with problem solving, brainstorming, and capacity building.
- Expanding Capacity Building: Additional capacity building continues to be a key request from our grantee partners, with areas such as revenue generation, data collection, strategic growth planning, and communications among the top asks, along with opportunities for more connection and collaboration. Next year, we will continue to build out our tiers of support, ensuring our internal team has the time and expertise to guide grantees and that we have the right third-party partners in place to address the most timely needs. There are several plans in place already, including more training webinars for common challenges, exploration of cohort models, and piloting strategic leadership support and partnerships, in addition to deepening our current offerings.
- Diversifying Pipelines: Lastly, we continue to see low conversion rates from pipeline to grant across the Foundation, which is especially pronounced for early stage organizations. Last year, we tried to address this by diversifying our pipeline. Yet despite sourcing more organizations, we still struggled to fund as many early stage organizations as we’d hoped to in order to effectively encourage innovation in the field. We’re considering a few other changes for 2023, including alternative sourcing mechanisms and partnerships with capacity-building providers that can help prepare younger nonprofits to be ready for our funding down the road.
The challenges of the past few years have given me even more resolve in the fundamental idea that each child is full of unlimited potential—though not every child has the opportunity to unlock it. This belief will continue to guide our Foundation’s strategic thinking and investments as we push ourselves to be even more thoughtful partners, to ask the tough questions, and to lift up the most useful insights—even when they might not be what we expected.
While our commitment to unlocking innovation, evidence, and growth in the education sector is unwavering, our success would not be possible without all the stakeholders who bring this work to life. I would be remiss to not end this note, as always, with gratitude. Thank you to the educators and families who continue to do the incredibly difficult and important work of shaping our nation’s future leaders. Thank you to our grantees for never giving up and for facing each new challenge with resilience and optimism. Thank you to my Overdeck Family Foundation team for bringing your heart and head to everything that you do, and for your commitment to measurably enhancing education inside and outside the classroom. And lastly, thank you to our trustees, John and Laura Overdeck, for your vision and fortitude to make this important work possible.