Did you know Smart Start is more than a funder of child-serving agencies across Mecklenburg County? We are a collaborator, leader, and convener in the early childhood space. Our team, together with the agencies we fund, ensure that children turn five ready to thrive.

We understand that authentic leadership encourages effective partnerships and collaborations. Continue reading to learn more about our leading initiatives and how you can help support our mission. Together we can make sure families with young children age 0-5 receive the support and connections to resources that they need to succeed.

Last year, Smart Start of Mecklenburg County launched its inaugural set of Innovation Grants. We attempted to reach deeper and differently into the community, outside of our traditional funding cycle, to affect change in early childhood. We were encouraged enough by the results that we decided to come back for year two.

We learned that there were amazing ideas that needed time and funding to get off the ground. We also developed a hypothesis that we don’t know what we don’t know and that there were probably many organizations on the ground doing excellent work that had not found their way to us. There are many reasons why, but a glaring one is that large institutional funders make it difficult for grassroots efforts to get off the ground and sustain themselves. We at Smart Start are not an exception. Our application process, monitoring, reporting, etc., can be onerous, especially for organizations that do not have the internal capacity or time to meet those requirements.

As an organization, we were fortunate to spend the last six months as part of a racial equity funding collaborative convened by United Way of Central Carolinas. This allowed us to take a deep dive into the concepts of equity and power. Building, sharing, and wielding power should be the goals of any organization that invests in the community. The good news is that most of us in the funding community recognize the problem and want to adapt, but systems take time to change.

The other good news is that systems are made up of people. The more we learn, the more we can adapt, as long as we dare to do so. With that, we were thrilled to see the results of our second round of innovation grants. We did it differently. We simplified the application process and have attempted to signal partnership vs. compliance with community organizations. We pushed our networks and expanded our reach. The results are in, and we are proud of where we are heading:

  • The number of applicants increased from 15 to 27
  • The number of funded organizations increased from 5 to 13
  • Total funding awarded nearly tripled year over year
  • Formed an independent review team made up of community members not affiliated with Smart Start. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the following people for a tremendous amount of time and diligence: Lindsay Broyhill, Moses Fox III, Helen Hope Kimbrough, Patricia Johnson-Aguilar, and Joanna Smith
  • Two private funders joined forces with Smart Start to expand the pool of available funding. Thank you, Vanguard and Winer Family Foundation.

We cannot wait to see how these investments permeate our early childhood community today, tomorrow, and into the future.
Smart Start of Mecklenburg County is excited to announce our FY21-22 Innovation Grant recipients! We are proud to partner with these local organizations to build a strong system of support for our young children and their families.

We look forward to sharing more information about these exciting projects in the near future. For more information on our Innovation Grant process and past recipients, CLICK HERE.
  • Alliance Center for Education
  • Beatties Ford Family Child Care Network
  • Charlotte Bilingual Preschool
  • Charlotte Community Health Clinic
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library
  • Davidson-Cornelius CDC
  • Family Mankind
  • Freedom Communities
  • Promising Pages
  • Queen City Cocoa B.E.A.N.S
  • Reach out and Read
  • Smith Family Wellness Center
  • Thompson
  • WTVI-PBS Charlotte
The numbers are in! We are proud to announce that a total of 684 Mecklenburg County child care professionals received bi-annual bonuses through the Child Care WAGE$® Program in FY21. These participants worked in 243 different child care programs serving approximately 13,464 children. Click the button below to learn more about how Child Care WAGE$® Program impacts our community by improving the quality of early care and education for young children.
Smart Start of Mecklenburg is pleased to partner with the Center for Child & Family Health (CCFH) to bring a unique training opportunity in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT ) to Mecklenburg Clinicians. 

We are seeking twelve licensed, mental health clinicians in Mecklenburg County to receive training. This Smart Start cohort will receive the CCFH Training program in PCIT and the initial supplies necessary to implement PCIT at no cost to them. Smart Start requests that the clinicians agree to serve Medicaid-eligible families for two years in exchange for this complimentary training. As required by the federal Families First Legislation, our goal is to increase the number of licensed clinicians and agencies offering evidence-based therapies to our most vulnerable young children and their families. 

Join us for a virtual information session taking place on November 17 or November 18. Click the link below to learn more and to register.
By making a gift through our Amazon Wish List, you can supply local families with 200 boxes of diapers this holiday season. This giving opportunity is in partnership with the Junior League of Charlotte and Bright Blessings.

Please note you must be logged in to your Amazon account to shop the wish list. Upon checking out, select “Bright Blessings” as the delivery address:

Bright Blessings
1150 Crews Rd. Suite C
Matthews, NC 28105
We mobilize resources, forge partnerships, and support families to improve early childhood health, education, and development - all to help ensure children are prepared for kindergarten.

Click the links to learn more about our funded programs within our four areas of focus for children ages birth to five.