The Early Years Initiative Grant: Get the Most Out of Your Funds

The Early Years Initiative Grant is back and providing another funding opportunity for early childhood professionals in Indiana! With support from the Lilly Endowment Inc., this grant opportunity will help you create, enhance, or expand an early childhood program so that you can better support infants and toddlers as they develop foundational knowledge and skills to benefit their future. 

Applications for the Indiana Early Years Initiative Grant are currently open and will close on May 15, 2024, at 5 p.m. EST. Eligible grantees will receive between $75,000 and $500,000 to spend on projects and materials that support the learning and developmental needs of infants and toddlers. This amount may change depending on your proposed project/s and the total funding amount allocated and available to the Early Years Initiative. 

No matter the amount of your grant funding, you may have questions about how to get the most out of your grant dollars. Are there guidelines that will restrict your spending? Have you thoroughly assessed your needs and the projects you will cover with your grant funding? Will the projects and materials you purchase with grant funds be sustainable for the long term?   

As a leader in early childhood education for several decades, we understand the importance of experiences that strengthen infant and toddler development at home, school, and in the community. This article will outline several ways you can use your Early Years Initiative Grant funding to complete projects and create programs that better support the infants and toddlers in your care. 

What Is the Early Years Initiative Grant?

Earlier this year, Early Learning Indiana, along with the support of Lilly Endowment Inc., announced the Early Years Initiative Grant opportunity. This grant is for organizations and licensed family child care homes in Indiana with public charity or 501(c)(3) status through the Internal Revenue System. These organizations must currently care for infants and toddlers or plan to at a future date. 

Grantees can expect anywhere from $75,000 to $500,000 in funding to put toward projects and materials over the next three years.

Am I eligible to receive the Early Years Initiative Grant?

You are eligible to receive grant funding if you are a public charity, as described in the Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3). You must also currently serve or plan to serve infants and toddlers, either directly or indirectly. The final requirement for eligibility is that you have an operating budget of at least $75,000 and have been in operation for at least 12 months on the date you submit your application. 

What Types of Projects Are Eligible Through the Early Years Initiative Grant?

All projects should support the foundational education and development of infants and toddlers, especially those from low-income households, members of communities of color, or multi-language learners. Proposed projects may include:

  • Parent education programs that offer home visits to help strengthen family and child relationships
  • Creating supportive child care centers for your local community
  • Resources that help with the early detection of developmental needs or disabilities that may require specialist intervention
  • Introducing children to materials and lessons that encourage the development of essential skills and early language

What Can I Purchase With the Early Years Initiative Grant?

This grant will help public charity organizations in Indiana do one of two things:

  • Fund projects that expand or improve an existing program to better address the needs of infants and toddlers, such as those from low-income households, members of communities of color, or multi-language learners. 
  • Design new programs or fund projects for a new program that will serve infants and toddlers, either directly or indirectly. 

The Early Years Initiative Grant should not go into supporting the general operations of your infant and toddler programs. However, you can use this grant to support new program start-up costs, salaries and benefits for your staff members, classroom equipment and supplies, capital improvements, and necessary professional services required to carry out a project. This can include:

  • Changing tables and supplies that keep classrooms sanitary, promote proper hygiene, and assist children with toilet training
  • Cribs and other naptime necessities to help infants and toddlers rest safely and comfortably
  • Mirrors and other reflective surfaces that foster self-awareness and positive self-esteem
  • Toys and books that encourage early language development for infants and toddlers
  • Toddler lofts and other classroom furnishings that promote cooperative play and positive social interactions 
  • Comfortable seating and area rugs that make your classroom feel like a “home away from home” so that both children and their parents feel comfortable in the space
  • Adding an outdoor space for infants and toddlers that includes play equipment to support their physical and motor development
  • Assessment materials that help parents and educators detect developmental delays that may require specialist interventions

An image of an early childhood toddler classroom that is set up with a large area rug, bookshelf, wooden storage shelving, a wooden rocking chair with a blue cushion, a wicker basket with stuffed animals, and wall tapestries and planters on the walls.

With the Early Years Initiative Grant, there will be no need to match the awarded grant amount financially. However, it may help to seek additional funding from public or private sources for your specific program projects and needs. 

Reach out to an Indiana territory rep if you need help ordering items that meet the Early Years Initiative Grant guidelines.  We are happy to help with a custom quote that meets your proposed project specifications.

How do I apply to receive the Early Years Initiative Grant?

Applications for the Indiana Early Years Initiative Grant are currently open and will close on May 15, 2024, at 5 p.m. EST. If you are interested in applying for this funding opportunity, submit your application here. All grantees will be announced by September 30, 2024. 

Will I Receive Support as I Use My Grant Funding?

Early Learning Indiana will provide you with technical assistance throughout the grant usage period. This includes training, consultation, and other resources to help you successfully complete your proposed projects. They will also hold community gatherings (dates and times TBD) where you can meet with peers to discuss your successes, troubleshoot challenges, and gather resources to better support the infants and toddlers in your care.

Will I Need to Report My Grant Spending?

Yes! You must submit periodic and annual reports outlining any outcomes specific to the project or program the grant is funding. These reports should also include budget data to track your funds and how much you have left to spend. You will submit these reports through MetaCX, Submittable, and other designated platforms assigned by Early Learning Indiana.

Where Can I Shop for Eligible Items and Materials?

With your Early Years Initiative Grant Funding now available, it is time to shop for the supplies and materials needed to complete your proposed projects before the deadline. 

With Kaplan, you can make this process easier by connecting with an Indiana territory rep who is up-to-date on all information regarding the Early Years Initiative Grant and will help you choose the best materials for your program and the infants/toddlers in your care. To connect with an Indiana territory rep, click here.

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