Building a business
My Brother’s Keeper report contains early childhood recommendations
The first progress report of My Brother’s Keeper, a White House initiative, sets out several recommendations that focus on early childhood, under the category “Entering school ready to learn.” The recommendations include the following:
Close the word gap and support enriching home environments: By the age of 3, children from low-income households have heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their higher income peers. Programs can raise awareness and encourage in-home and caregiver strategies that help provide an enriching learning environment.
Provide universal access to developmental, health, and behavioral screenings to reduce delay in providing needed services to children: States and localities can leverage existing insurance, including Medicaid, CHIP, and Marketplace (see healthcare.gov), to provide screening and appropriate interventions at minimal cost to all children.
Ensure appropriate placement of children in special education programs: Agencies should solicit public input on how best to identify students for special education and implement research-based strategies that improve K-3 literacy and behavior, including models that ensure children are not misdiagnosed and inappropriately placed in special education programs.
Ensure access to high-quality early care and education for all children: Best practices used by states can reduce the school readiness gap and increase the share of low-income children attending high-quality early care and education programs. Parents should be aware of the quality of preschool programs in which they enroll their children.
Improve early childhood workforce recruitment, training, and professional development: Public agencies should support training in the social-emotional development of children, encourage the use of mental health and infant-toddler specialists in training programs, and raise awareness about the research on racial biases in early learning settings. Research-based curricula and training resources should be made accessible to caregivers and early childhood educators.
Eliminate suspensions and expulsions in early learning settings: Public agencies should increase early childhood educators’ resources for addressing behavior management and bias, including blueprints to help build positive classroom norms and cultures. Communities and policy makers need to be educated about the potentially harmful effects of suspensions and expulsions and ways to avoid those practices.
The report, issued May 28, 2014, assigns the task of implementing many of the recommendations to the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice. Access the full report at www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/053014_mbk_report.pdf (retrieved July 1, 2014).
Women entrepreneurs increasing
Women are starting more than 1,200 new businesses a day in the United States, according to a recent American Express analysis, and the greatest growth has been in firms owned by women of color.
The study, released in March as the 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, looks at businesses created in the past 17 years, between 1997 and 2014.
Among the businesses most likely to be started by women are educational services. Other common types of businesses for women entrepreneurs involve administrative services, waste management, entertainment, recreation, and art.
Women are receiving inspiration from famous women entrepreneurs and taking advantage of resources such as Women’s Business Centers, sponsored by the Small Business Administration. The nearly 100 centers across the United States provide training and counseling in starting and growing small businesses.
To learn more, check these sources:
American Express. March 26, 2014. Press release: Women flexing their economic muscle, starting more than 1,200 new businesses per day, according to new research, http://about.americanexpress.com/news/pr/2014/women-flex-economic-muscle-new-research.aspx, retrieved June 27, 2014.
Associated Press. May 18, 2014. Women starting small businesses at torrid pace, www.statesman.com/news/business/women-starting-small-businesses-at-torrid-pace/nfy6D/, retrieved June 27, 2014.
U.S. Small Business Administration. n.d. Women’s Business Centers, www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/wbc, retrieved June 27, 2014.
Health tip for staff: Improve posture
Caregivers and early childhood educators spend a lot of time carrying children and bending over them. Exhaustion at the end of the day can lead to slouching.
Good posture is important because it can help us avoid health problems, such as backaches and poor blood circulation, and helps us to breathe properly, which can improve thinking and concentration. It also improves self-image, helping us feel more self-confident and assertive.
Good posture does not look like a military stance. Instead, it’s as though the body is suspended by a string from the ceiling. Shoulders are relaxed and wide (not hunched), the spine is naturally curved, and body weight is evenly distributed on the balls of the feet (not tilting forward or backward).
How to improve posture?
Stand by a full-length mirror and look at your body profile. Does it fit the description above?
Instead of bending over children, sit on a low stool or get down on the knees to be at eye level.
When lifting children, squat and use the leg muscles to come back up. See safe lifting techniques at www.utexas.edu/safety/ehs/occupational/safe_lifting_for_childcare.pdf, retrieved July 2, 2014.
Instead of carrying heavy boxes of materials, place them in a trolley or roller bag that can be pulled along behind.
When sitting in a chair or rocker, avoid crossing the legs. Ground both feet on the floor. Sit so that the spine is supported against the back of the chair.
Periodically throughout the day, both indoors and on the playground, stretch the body by raising the arms high in the air and sweeping them down to the sides of the body.
Check with your doctor about exercise and body weight. Losing a few pounds can help improve the torso shape and build core muscles that support good posture. Ask the doctor if back-friendly movement, such as yoga, is safe for you.
Where are the pots of money? A lesson
Our idea is to provide tutors for primary school children in low-income parts of town,” Charlie explains. “We want them to be skilled readers by third grade.”
“Great!” says Kate, director of a local family counseling center. “Where are you in planning?”
“A lawyer friend is helping us form a nonprofit organization, and we’ve appointed a board—all of us are volunteers with regular jobs. One board member is looking at possible sites, and others are collecting information about tutors and identifying students,” says Charlie. “I’ve agreed to be executive director, at least temporarily. We’re all excited.”
“You’ve made a good start,” Kate says.
“Yeah, but we need money. None of us has done any fundraising before,” he explains. “That’s why I’ve come to you.”
“Oh?” says Kate, lifting her brows.
“Your program gets funding from different sources,” Charlie says. “Tell me, where are the pots of money?”
Kate sits quietly for a few moments. Then she sighs, shaking her head: “It’s sounds like you think that funders sit around all day writing checks to nonprofits. That’s not so.”
Of course, she continues, there are lots of funders—foundations, government agencies, corporations, and individuals, for example. But they are typically inundated with requests, and they don’t have nearly enough funding for every request. Each entity has specific objectives to accomplish in giving, often designating how their money is to be spent. They have a defined procedure for accepting proposals, deadlines for applicants to meet, and criteria by which they judge proposals. Each entity is different, and changes can happen at any point.
At the same time, there are lots of organizations that want funding, Kate explains. Most have lofty goals, a valid community need, and good people, but that’s not enough. First of all, fundraising requires a clear understanding of your own organization’s mission and how that might fit the purpose of a given funder. Finding a good fit can take weeks of research.
Then there’s the proposal. Funders will want to know what tangible results you expect. It’s not enough to demonstrate need or cite the number of people you will serve. Funders will want measurable impact, such as a decrease in school absenteeism or improved test scores, for example. Overall a proposal has to show that you have an effective program, qualified staff, a reasonable timetable, and a well-crafted evaluation.
At the same time, funders will look at your board. Does it consist of experts in finance, law, education, and leadership? What are the board members’ connections in the community? Do they feel committed enough to your organization that they have donated to it? What evidence can you give of community support?
“Fundraising is about relationships,” Kate explains. If someone at a foundation or corporation shows an interest in your program, you’ll need to stay in touch by e-mail or phone, send news clips and photos, explain your progress, and visit in person. A funder may start with a small grant and gradually increase support over time.
Charlie raises his hand to speak. “Wait. I thought fundraising was a part of the executive director’s job, but this sounds like a whole job in itself.”
“Yes,” Kate says. “Depending on an organization’s size and budget, it’s a full-time job. Actually, fundraising is a specialized field, and fundraising professionals spend years honing their craft.”
Charlie looks dejected.
“I’d advise that you start small and begin making friends in the community,” Kate says. “You might be able to connect with influential people, get a corporate sponsor, or partner with a related group. Keep your eyes on your mission, and with a little luck your organization can grow.”
Charlie starts to leave.
“And be patient,” Kate adds. “Fundraising takes time.”