CLOSING THE OPPORTUNITY GAP

IT’S TOO HARD FOR TOO MANY VERMONTERS TO GET AHEAD IN LIFE.
WE WANT TO CHANGE THAT.

Listen to Community Foundation CEO & President Dan Smith talk about the Foundation’s focus on working to close the opportunity gap and why it matters.

46,000 WORKING FAMILIES IN VERMONT (NEARLY 1 IN 4) ARE NOT EARNING ENOUGH TO MAKE ENDS MEET

What is the Opportunity Gap?

Addressing the opportunity gap supports the Foundation’s mission to build philanthropy that sustains the health and vitality of Vermont communities.

For many Vermonters, getting ahead in life isn’t simply a matter of hard work. It’s a question of access: to high-quality education, to meaningful job opportunities, to healthy and vital communities. This is the opportunity gap—the divide that leaves many Vermonters struggling to build bright, secure futures no matter how hard they work.

The stage for the opportunity gap is set early, as many Vermont families struggle to find affordable and quality early care and education. It deepens during and after high school in the lack of clear and accessible training and education pathways to Vermont’s promising jobs. During the whole of a young person’s life, it’s magnified by the many obstacles facing families struggling to create a safe and nurturing environment for their kids. And too often, the communities in which these children grow up are struggling themselves, unable to realize their full potential as promising places to live, work, and play.

If allowed to persist, the gap facing low-income youth and families in this state could permanently destabilize our communities and, left unaddressed, diminishes the prospects for all Vermonters. We can’t afford to squander all of this potential.

A VERMONT CHILD BORN IN THE BOTTOM 20% ECONOMIC BRACKET HAS NO BETTER THAN 1 IN 10 CHANCE OF ADVANCING TO THE TOP 20% IN THEIR LIFETIME

The Imperative is Clear

Let’s align philanthropic resources to give more Vermonters more opportunities for success.

The opportunity gap facing Vermonters is daunting, propelled by demographic, political, and economic trends over the past 40 years that are testing rural states like Vermont. Aligning philanthropy to address this set of challenges is a social, civic, and economic imperative. If we as Vermonters don’t do it, who will?

This gap hits some communities particularly hard. When these neighbors suffer, all of us are affected. Failing to invest in this issue will cost all Vermonters in the long run through higher public assistance needs, stalled economic growth, reduced tax revenues, and poorer health outcomes.

For the Community Foundation, the imperative is clear. That’s why we’ve made closing the opportunity gap the heart of our work. We will align a significant portion of our time, energy, and discretionary resources on efforts to close the opportunity gap so that more Vermonters have access to the opportunities that help people get ahead in life: affordable, high-quality early care and learning; affordable pathways to college and career training; strong resources to support families; and communities that offer hope, connection, and meaning.

We Want Every Vermonter to Have Access to:

Affordable, accessible & high-quality
EARLY CARE &
LEARNING

Strong resources & tools to
SUPPORT YOUTH
& FAMILIES

Affordable & accessible pathways to
COLLEGE &
CAREER TRAINING

HEALTHY & VITAL
COMMUNITIES
seen as places of opportunity

 

Working to Close the Opportunity Gap
1. DEEP COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Photo: courtesy of Vermont Council on Rural Development

In its work to narrow the opportunity gap in Vermont, the Foundation will align its discretionary resources behind a three-pronged approach of engagement, grants, and place-based investments.

Communities know best where their opportunities exist, but often lack the resources to get good ideas off the ground and by partnering with organizations like the Vermont Council on Rural Development, we will improve our ability to offer what communities need to be successful. We’ll listen, learn, and invest in their ideas—deep engagement that we hope will chart a path toward real change in Vermont towns.

Applying this focused lens to our work will allow us to enhance the Foundation’s top-notch philanthropic advising, along with our longstanding work researching and tracking community trends, identifying and targeting gaps, and highlighting promising nonprofitprograms. Much of our philanthropy is already by Vermonters for Vermonters; in tackling the opportunity gap, we’ll go even deeper into the communities we serve.

Working to Close the Opportunity Gap
2. GRANTS

Photo: Sabin Gratz

Grantmaking is the most visible part of what we do; the Foundation typically makes more than 2,500 grants a year. We will always be a broad-based funder by virtue of the many generous people who give through us. And we remain steadfastly dedicated to helping them find and fund the causes they love.

In our work to narrow the opportunity gap, we will now dedicate a significant portion of our discretionary grantmaking resources to support issues that help more Vermonters have access to: affordable, high-quality early care and learning; affordable pathways to college and career training; strong resources to support families; and communities that offer hope, connection, and meaning.

This sharpened grantmaking lens also serves to leverage the important work of the Vermont Women’s Fund and our four supporting organizations: Addison Community Athletics Foundation, High Meadows Fund, The J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation, and The Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children.

Working to Close the Opportunity Gap
3. PLACE-BASED INVESTMENTS

Photo: Jon Shenton; courtesy of Champlain Housing Trust

In tandem with our grantmaking, our investments are another tool we’ll use to narrow the opportunity gap, providing a financial return for the Foundation while simultaneously injecting much-needed capital into innovative Vermont projects and companies.

In 2001, the Vermont Community Foundation became one of the first community foundations to put a portion of our investments to work in ways that help achieve our mission and established the Vermont Investments program, which allocates 5% of the Foundation’s pooled investments in Vermont.

Moving forward, the Foundation will focus its Vermont investments on projects that help close the opportunity gap for the state’s most vulnerable residents. One recent example is a $500,000 investment made in conjunction with a $2.3 million loan from the Vermont Community Loan Fund to help Champlain Housing Trust purchase and renovate the former St. Joseph School (pictured below) in Burlington’s Old North End. The building will be transformed into a multi-purpose community center serving both neighborhood residents and the broader community.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Vermont’s opportunity gap is a challenge, yes, but also—aptly—an opportunity. This is our chance to sharpen the lens through which we view our work, identify and fund community projects, and build partnerships for change. We invite philanthropists and other partners to join the Community Foundation in ways that deepen the impact any one of us could make on our own.

We believe that our giving can and will provide the opportunities Vermonters need to build bright futures. Join us.

Please be in touch to share your ideas and learn more.
802-388-3355 • info@vermontcf.org