About the Early Childhood Initiative

The San Diego Foundation is committed to supporting a resilient region where all have equitable access to opportunity. Understanding that early childhood care is essential to supporting families and ensuring long-term success for children, the Early Childhood Initiative (ECI) increases access to quality, affordable early childhood education and developmental care in San Diego County through grantmaking, partnership and advocacy. ECI works collaboratively with regional partners to:

  • Strengthen families
  • Increase health equity
  • Bolster the regional workforce
  • Support economic growth

The deadline to apply for this grant was 2:00 p.m. PDT, Friday, May 6, 2022.

For questions, please contact communityimpact@sdfoundation.org.

Program Timeline

March 21, 2022
Grant Guidelines released
April 6, 2022, 11:00 a.m.
Q&A Webinar
May 6, 2022 by 2:00 p.m.
Application submission deadline
June 2022 (Tentative)
Grant funding announcements

The Funding Opportunity

The San Diego Foundation and Dr. Seuss Foundation

The San Diego Foundation and the Dr. Seuss Foundation have made available $1 million in total funding for the 2022 ECI grant. This total includes $750,000 from The San Diego Foundation and $250,000 from the Dr. Seuss Foundation. Nonprofit organizations are invited to apply through 2:00 p.m., Friday, May 6th. Maximum awards are expected to range between $75,000 and $100,000.


Early Childhood InitiativePast Early Childhood Initiative grants have supported our goal of increasing quality, affordable early childhood education and developmental care through service expansions, improved access to early intervention and behavioral health supports, and resources for disproportionately impacted children and families.
The partnership between The San Diego Foundation and the Dr. Seuss Foundation expands this year’s ECI grant, which includes a focus on supporting early grade-level readiness and equitable access to opportunity by ensuring a strong foundation for literacy in the earliest years. This approach recognizes the connection between educational readiness and social determinants of health, considering whole family health, financial security, and access to supportive services in the approach to early literacy and educational readiness.
Recognizing that the earliest years of life are a time of critical mental and behavioral development that can impact educational readiness and opportunities for a lifetime, the ECI Equitable Opportunities Grant will also continue to support children, parents and providers with grants to increase early education access, improve instructional quality, support healthy, equitable starts, and prevent and address trauma. Grants will support high-impact nonprofit organizations providing critical services focused on regional resilience and long-term solutions.

Grant Goal

The ECI Equitable Opportunities Grant supports nonprofit organizations implementing strategic efforts to build the region’s resilience by increasing equitable access to educational opportunity and supportive services for young children and their caretakers.


The following are strategies that support the goal of the 2022 ECI Grant. Organizations will be asked to identify the lead strategy they plan to employ in their application. All applicants are encouraged to address service and support for low-to-moderate income families, and communities experiencing negative social determinants of health.

Early Literacy

  • Support evidence-based programs that strengthen language development and early literacy for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, including family literacy, to provide a strong foundation for early grade-level readiness.

Early Education Service Expansions

  • Increase the number of spaces available for children ages 0-5, or make early education services available to more families through expanded access to care.

Instructional Quality Improvements & Educational Staff Support

  • Support professional training, curriculum development, program implementation, materials, and/or mentorship to improve instructional practices and support early childhood staff. Projects should have potential to impact a group or network of early childhood professionals.
  • Projects that work to eliminate bias and further the equitable treatment of all children in the early education and care sector, including but not limited to addressing preschool expulsion/suspensions as part of an effort to ensure greater equity within programs and services.

Healthy, Equitable Starts for Children & New Parents

  • Expand services that aim to achieve birth equity and promote safe, healthy pregnancy and birth conditions for mothers and babies, bolstered by access to supportive services and/or care coordination.
  • Support parents of children ages 0-5 through evidence-based parenting education programs with a focus on positive parenting skills and knowledge about early childhood development and early learning.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Prevention & Intervention

  • Expand access to ACEs screening for children ages 0-5, and strengthen mental and behavioral health services to prevent and address trauma for young children and their families experiencing crises (including children involved in foster care and child welfare).

Grant Eligibility and Recommendations

Family with bookEligibility

  • Each proposal must be led by a nonprofit with 501(c)(3) public charity status, operating in and serving San Diego County.
  • A 501(c)(3) public charity may serve as a fiscal sponsor for another applicant to administer the grant and provide regular financial reporting to The Foundation.
  • Organizations may be part of more than one proposal but may only serve as lead applicant for one proposal.
  • Projects must be completed within a 12-month timeline.
  • Previous applicants or recipients of Early Childhood Initiative funding are eligible to apply.
  • The Foundation will not fund endowments, existing obligations/debt, scholarships, or projects that promote religious or political doctrines.
  • Projects must expand care for low-to-moderate income communities and/or populations experiencing health disparities or negative social determinants of health.
  • Given our focus on long-lasting solutions and building the capacity of this sector, projects must demonstrate having other significant resources or plans in place to ensure program longevity.


  • Leverage, align funds, and catalyze investment with other partners
  • Articulate a strategy for project success
  • Show potential for community impact
  • Exhibit organizational strength, past performance, and strong community partnerships
  • Demonstrate ability to connect authentically with the community served


Applicants interested in applying as part of a partnership should communicate how participating organizations will achieve stated goals by establishing a division of labor, a clear accountability framework, and a shared budget related to specified and/or joint responsibilities.

For applications that identify multiple Funded Partners, the maximum award total is $100,000 between all funded partners, with the lead organization receiving no more than $75,000.

For applications that identify a lead organization and Unfunded Supporting Partners, the application maximum is $75,000.

Funded Partners

Proposals may identify more than one funded organization, with one lead 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Only lead applicants will receive the grant funding and be responsible for correspondence with, and reporting to, The San Diego Foundation. All other coordination and communication should occur between the lead applicant and their program partners. Organizations must demonstrate relevant financial capacity, as well as related past performance. As part of the application, all funded partners will be required to submit a letter of support communicating the organization’s commitment to implementing the goals of the partnership.

Unfunded Supporting Partners

Proposals may include one lead organization with supporting partner entities that will not receive direct funding as a result of the grant. As part of the application, organizations will be asked to describe the nature of the partnership.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the deadline?

The application deadline was 2:00 p.m. PDT, Friday, May 6, 2022.

Who should apply?

Each proposal must be led by a nonprofit with 501(c)(3) public charity status, operating in and serving San Diego County.

What is the age range for early childhood?

Early childhood is identified as 0-5 years of age, including prenatal care.

What if my application’s proposal addresses more than one strategy listed above?

While your proposal may address more than one funding strategy listed, please select one strategy as your lead strategy on your application. Applications will be considered in their entirety, so the selection of one strategy over another will not negatively impact your application. All the funding strategies are equally important in the ECI Review Committee’s consideration for funding. Please see “The Funding Opportunity” section for additional details.

How do we define low-to-moderate income?

A low-income community means there is a median family income of less than 50 percent of the area median income. A moderate-income community means that the median family income is at least 50 percent and less than 80 percent of the area median income.

How much can we request?

The San Diego Foundation will accept requests up to $75,000 per application, or up to $100,000 for a funded partnership. Please see “Partnerships” section for additional details.

Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible for an Early Childhood Initiative Grant, organizations must have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and provide services in San Diego County. An organization may serve as a fiscal sponsor for a charitable organization that does not have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status if a cooperative relationship between the two can be clearly demonstrated. The fiscal sponsor must be willing to administer the grant if awarded. Please see Eligibility & Recommendations above.

Can previous grant recipients apply?

Yes, organizations who previously received funding from either The San Diego Foundation or the Dr. Seuss Foundation are eligible to apply for the 2022 Early Childhood Initiative Equitable Opportunities Grant. Please see “Grant Eligibility & Recommendations” above.

Can my organization submit, and possibly be awarded, more than one application for the 2022 Early Childhood Initiative Equitable Opportunities Grant?

For this grant, organizations may be part of more than one proposal but may only serve as lead applicant for only one proposal.  Please see “Partnerships” section for additional details.

What is the grant period?

Projects must be implemented within 12 months of grant approval. The grant timeframe is tentatively July 2022 – June 2023.

Are indirect or overhead costs permitted?

For the purposes of this grant, The San Diego Foundation does not allow for indirect costs. However, overhead costs are allowed for a funded project when it is incorporated into a line-item budget as part of the proposal. This could include specific uses of overhead in the proposed budget, for example, salaries or rent.

When will applicants be notified?

Applicants are expected to be notified in June 2022.

What other funding opportunities are available at The San Diego Foundation?

Open grant programs are listed on The San Diego Foundation’s “Apply for Assistance” page.

What if I have any additional questions or encounter any technical issues with my application?

Please contact communityimpact@sdfoundation.org.

Where can I learn more about the Dr. Seuss Foundation?

The mission of the Dr. Seuss Foundation is to be a catalyst for improved literacy, broadly conceived, through strategic partnerships and investments. We envision a world in which all people, animals, and the environment are valued and thriving. Our focus is on improving literacy and learning as these are essential to succeeding in the multi-layered worlds of the arts and humanities, health and well-being, animal welfare, and the environment. To learn more, visit www.DrSeussFoundation.org.

Where can I learn more about The San Diego Foundation?

The San Diego Foundation inspires enduring philanthropy and enables community solutions to improve the quality of life in our region. Our strategic priorities include advancing racial and social justice, fostering equity of opportunity, building resilient communities, and delivering world-class philanthropy to realize our vision of just, equitable and resilient communities. For more than 46 years, The Foundation and its donors have granted more than $1.3 billion to support nonprofit organizations strengthening our community. Learn more about The Foundation Strategic Plan here.