Head Start
Innovation Fund


The Head Start Innovation Fund was launched in 2013 to improve the quality of Head Start services and outcomes for children and their families in Detroit.

It was created by the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, a group of regional and national foundations working together since 2010 to strengthen early childhood development and education through collaboration, alignment, and a strategic grantmaking.




In 2013 the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative committed $4.9 million to create the Detroit Head Start Early Childhood Innovation Fund. The Innovation Fund awards competitive grants for programs and partnerships that improve the quality of Head Start services and outcomes for children and their families in Detroit. It also provides strategic support for system-wide needs, such as oversight of a monthly Learning Network for all providers, creation and administration of a common enrollment campaign, comprehensive data collection, and provision of collaborative access to shared resources, such as quality training.

The $4.9 million Innovation Fund leverages and supports a $48 million, 5-year federal investment in Head Start programs in Detroit, which was originally announced in early 2013, with the first round of federal contracts awarded in early 2014. The federal investment supports comprehensive birth-to-age-5 Early Head Start and Head Start programming in Detroit, including programs for expectant families. The Innovation Fund focuses specifically on the new Head Start providers that were selected by the federal government through this rebidding process.

The following foundations are members of the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative that have invested in the Innovation Fund:

  • W. K. Kellogg Foundation
  • Kresge Foundation
  • Skillman Foundation
  • Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation
  • McGregor Fund
  • Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
  • The Jewish Fund
  • PNC Foundation

Other members of the funders collaborative include the Colina Fund and the Bosch Community Fund.

In the first round of Innovation Fund grantmaking (2014-2015), four grantees representing seven Early Head Start and Head Start agencies, provided eligible Detroit families with wrap-around care and ongoing family support. A shared data system was developed to create a common understanding of enrollment and quality outcomes. Unique collaborations developed that boost agency capacity to deliver high quality care and support. The Detroit Head Start Learning Network developed a common brand and campaign to market enrollment to boost Head Start enrollment among eligible families.

The second round of Innovation Fund grantmaking (2016) focuses on innovative strategies for early childhood educator recruitment and retention. Grants to the four agencies will support unique partnerships to improve learning management systems, teacher retention efforts and professional development support. The Fund will also implement a data quality improvement plan and development of a Head Start teacher recruitment plan.

While the Innovation Fund will continue its commitment to Detroit, the round-two contributions of the Ralph C Wilson, Jr. Foundation and the Community Foundation will enable it to expand its scope into the tri-county region.


A hallmark of the Innovation Fund is collaboration. The funders recently worked together to launch a tri-county study of quality early childhood seats and where there are gaps. A video of the report can be found here.

Branding and parent outreach campaign created for the Head Start agencies has boosted Head Start and Early Head Start enrollment by 100%. The funders are currently supporting a comprehensive teacher recruitment strategy to increase the pool of qualified early childhood educators in Detroit and southeast Michigan.

The foundations contributing to the Innovation Fund invested more than $54 million in early childhood between 2012-15, including the Head Start Innovation Fund’s $5 million Detroit-specific early childhood efforts.

"Community support is essential to the success of the Head Start program. What the Collaborative is doing in Detroit provides a model for how the philanthropic community can work to support high-quality Head Start services in communities across the country."

Anne LinehanOffice of Head Start

What We’ve Funded


Matrix Human Services $450,000 to increase the pool of qualified early childhood and Teach for America educators by offering a Child Development Associate program and a five-week employment training program. The funds will also be used for financial literacy education and other programs to support low-income families.

Metropolitan Child and Youth Inc. $200,000 for teacher retention and the recruitment of families with infants and toddlers to Early Head Start programs.  Funds will also support a partnership with First Children’s Finance to facilitate staff leadership development and capacity building and implement an accelerated child development associate credentialing process. Funding will also support partnerships with Madonna University to provide Infant and Toddler Care certification for staff, and with High/Scope and Teachstone to develop and evaluate curriculum.

New Saint Paul Tabernacle Church of God in Christ Head Start Agency $300,000 for unique partnerships with Madonna University and High/Scope to build teacher recruitment and retention efforts, including teacher development and a “train the trainer” program, with a focus on training teachers for Early Head Start.

Starfish Family Services $450,000 to provide training and professional development for teachers, advancement opportunities for qualified staff, and ongoing performance assessment programs for all personnel at the manager level or higher.


Matrix Human Services $668,392 for Head Start services at 26 Detroit locations and nine programs in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. The work included home visitations and parent coaching, teacher training, new curriculum and the integration of social services.

Metropolitan Children and Youth Inc. (also known as United Children and Families) $190,000 to support services for 512 children and their families, including prenatal care and full-day, full-year infant and toddler programs, and to create spots for 210 additional children in their preschool programs. The grant also supported formative assessment, professional development for teachers and enhanced data gathering, tracking and reporting.

New St. Paul Tabernacle  $300,000 to implement evidence-based tools and professional staff development in its Early Head Start and Head Start programs serving 88 infants and toddlers, 475 preschoolers and 20 pregnant women. The center introduced an Oral Education Series, Prenatal Education Workshop and Living Arts teacher training, and family enrichment workshops.

Southwest Counseling Solutions $75,000 to support two community-based doulas — pregnancy and early infancy coaches — to provide birth and parenting support to pregnant women and new mothers. This was the first program of its kind to reach out to low-income mothers with doula services.

Starfish Family Services  $750,000 for Head Start preschool services to nearly 1,300 children and families, including home-based services for infants and toddlers and pregnant women. The grant covered implementation of a new curriculum, assessment and screening.


The Community Foundation can accept gifts of almost any kind, including:

  • Cash, by check or online donation
  • Securities traded on major exchanges
  • Closely held business interests
  • Interests in limited liability companies
  • Patent interests and other qualified intellectual properties
  • Mutual fund shares
  • Fully paid life insurance policies
  • Retirement plan assets
  • Real estate

How to Give

You can give online using our online giving platform.

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Please make your check payable to the “Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan” and mail it to:

Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
333 W. Fort St., Suite 2010
Detroit, MI 48226

For assistance with how to give gifts of cash, marketable securities or wire transfer, please review our Procedures for Making a Gift of Cash or Stock document.

Procedures for Making a Gift of Cash or Stock


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact:

Kamilah Henderson

Program Officer

313.961.6675, ext. 124


Contact Kamilah if you have grant-related questions.