Early Impact

Early Impact

The early years of a child’s life are a critical time for learning. Yet many parents and caregivers lack the resources to maximize children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. Our Early Impact portfolio funds organizations and researchers that meet families where they are, with evidence-based practices that are proven to make a difference in the early lives of children.

Goal
All children enter kindergarten with the skills needed to unlock their full potential

Mission
empower families, caregivers, and communities to use evidence-based positive parenting practices that provide children a strong foundation for early learning and development.

By the numbers

  • 25 organizations
  • 17 research grants
  • 370,000 families

Our approach

  • Invest in organizations that disseminate evidence-based parenting practices through delivery methods and channels that meet families where they are
  • Use research to understand the current state of parenting, including how parents and caregivers receive information about recommended parenting practices
  • Facilitate collaboration between researchers, practitioners, and caregivers to foster improvements in knowledge and practice

What we’ve learned

  • Early childhood matters. By the time children from low-income families begin school, they already score significantly lower than their peers on reading and math achievement tests (Rouse et al., 2005).
  • The innovation may be the messenger, not the message. Our most successful grantees pair evidence-based practices with user-centered design, resulting in scalable, customer-centric delivery channels that meet parents where they are. Some examples of this are Bright by Three’s text messaging program and ParentsTogether’s use of mobile messaging; both deliver evidence-based parenting content to parents in digestible and engaging formats.
  • Technological innovations have scale. New methods of engaging parents and caregivers, ranging from chat bots to word pedometers, have made interventions more cost effective and measurable than ever.
  • Trusted messengers are key to building demand in communities and positively related to the likelihood of program adoption. A national survey co-funded by the Overdeck Family Foundation found that parents were most likely to seek advice from within their own social networks, with 86% looking to immediate family members and 73% relying on friends. 83% also sought advice from healthcare professionals. These sources were not only the most frequently consulted, but the most trusted.
  • Tech-enabled parent coaching can be effective in changing parent behavior and related child outcomes. Providence Talks, an Overdeck Family Foundation grantee, found that all caregivers who were presented data on their child’s vocabulary development showed relative increases in adult word count, regardless of where they started. An earlier study of the work found that participants who started at the lowest levels made the most progress, increasing words spoken in the home by 50%.

Sample grantees


Rouse, C. E., Brooks-Gunn, J., & McLanahan, S. (Eds.). (2005). School readiness: Closing racial and ethnic gaps. [Special Issue] The Future of Children, 15(1).