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AFN Conducted the first-ever Survey on Private CSA funding. Here are the takeaways.

Readers of Prosperity Now’s blog may be familiar with Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs), but it’s important to note that the field is still relatively new. The first national CSA demonstration only began in the early 2000s, and we still have much to learn about CSA program operations, funding and impact. To find out more about this burgeoning field, the Asset Funders Network (AFN) developed the first-ever CSA Survey of Private Funding late last year.  

The forthcoming State of the Children’s Savings Field 2017 from Prosperity Now found that two-thirds of CSA programs rely entirely on private funding sources. Prosperity Now also found that 69% of CSA programs receive some foundation funding – the most common type of funding received overall. AFN’s survey delves deeper into private funding, complementing Prosperity Now’s data to provide a more complete picture.  

What did the AFN survey show? Here are some highlights. 

The Philanthropic Community Enthusiastically Supports CSAs 

The survey, which examined programs in the period of 2015-16, revealed that several community and family foundations provide support for multiple programs. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation provided support for three CSA programs during the study period. In total, almost 20 family foundations supported CSA programs nationwide. 

AFN concluded that community and family foundations have built-in advantages—like strong ties to their communities and interest in long-term results—that make them ideal funders for CSA programs. These deep-seated community relationships help justify the value of investing in young children for economic and societal benefit down the road.  

Most CSAs Have Multiple Private Funding Sources 

Although some CSA programs rely on one or two funders, most programs utilize several funding sources. In these cases, funders typically address distinct aspects of the program. For example, one organization may fund the initial deposits, while another waives fees to make accounts available free of charge. The Prosperity Kids program in New Mexico attracted support from 11 funders. Ten private funders buttressed the St. Louis College Kids program, in addition to public funding from the St. Louis Treasurer’s Office.   

Still, a fair number of programs receive single, large gifts to fund their CSAs. Twelve active or fully funded programs receive support from one private funder, and another five receive support from two private funding sources.  

The Field Needs More Research on Funding Sources 

The AFN survey excluded programs that enroll students exclusively in middle school or beyond as well as other types of funding sources. Seeing what differences, if any, emerge from the funding sources for these programs could give program managers insight into their own funding strategy.  

The 1:1 Fund and other crowdfunding platforms were also excluded from the survey. The 1:1 Fund has grown considerably, expanding from 10 to 16 partner organizations (nearly one-third of CSA programs), and surpassing previous fundraising records over the last two years. Finding out the extent to which programs rely on crowdfunding could offer other lessons for programs.  

Moreover, the AFN survey did not capture programs’ entire budgets, preventing comparisons between private and public funding sources. Future research should explore this dynamic. Continued research on funding sources will allow more CSA programs to develop sustainable funding models as the field expands and serves more communities.  

To read the full AFN paper, click here. To receive additional information about CSAs, including reports and publications, join the Campaign for Every Kid’s Future at savingsforkids.org.