Jun 11, 2019

Collaborating to close opportunity gaps among Connecticut’s children, youth and families

(NORWALK, CT) Four Connecticut-based family foundations and one of the state’s largest community foundations today announced the launch of the Collective Impact Opportunity Fund within Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. The Fund will make collective grants to public agencies and non-profit organizations striving to close educational, workforce, and other opportunity gaps among children, youth, and their families in Connecticut. The Fund will focus its initial grant-making in the Greater Norwalk region.

The founding funders — BeFoundation, Dalio Philanthropies, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, The Per & Astrid Heidenreich Family Foundation and the Ritter Family Foundation — are each committed to the long-term vision of the Fund. These funders have collectively contributed more than $1.6 million in the first round of funding. Additional philanthropic-minded individuals and organizations will be encouraged to join the Fund over time.

“I am thrilled that these family foundations and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation came together to create the Collective Impact Opportunity Fund. This partnership makes additional financial resources available that will help provide much-needed funding to the public agencies and nonprofit organizations that are doing important work in the community. I am happy the initial investment will focus on the Greater Norwalk area, and allocate funds to those working to make a difference in the lives of Connecticut children and families,” said Norwalk Mayor Harry W. Rilling.

The Fund is managed as a field of interest fund at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, where the Fund’s contributing foundations and individual donors will benefit from access to the Community Foundation’s vast mission-aligned network, knowledge of the region’s nonprofit landscape, and efficient administrative services.

Through this collaboration, funders will align their financial resources, expertise, and networks to work together with non-profit, business, and government leaders in making grants that will help realize the tremendous potential of Connecticut residents from cradle to career. In partnership with local stakeholders and other experts, participating funders will collaborate with grantees to develop common performance measures and an annual cycle of analysis and reporting. The primary aim is to strengthen the capacity of all stakeholders to achieve the shared mission of closing opportunity gaps affecting children, youth and families in Connecticut. The Fund has an invitation-only grant application process and will not accept unsolicited letters of inquiry or proposals.

“The process of collective impact enables Norwalk to rethink how it uses data collectively to drive improvements in policy, systems and programs, to better the outcomes and lives of its young people. The potential for Norwalk to have targeted investment towards the work needed to impact systemic change is tremendously exciting,” said Jennifer Barahona, CEO, Norwalk ACTS, whose mission is to enrich and improve the lives and futures of all Norwalk’s children, cradle to career. “We applaud these organizations for working together and recognizing the value of collective impact. Norwalk ACTS looks forward to continuing our work within the community to use data to inform programming and investment decisions to positively impact the lives of all of Norwalk’s youth.”

“BeFoundation looks forward to using the Fund for strategic grantmaking in a portfolio of organizations and activities necessary to dramatically improve student readiness for college, career and life success,” said Richard Wenning, BeFoundation’s Executive Director.

Juanita T. James, President and CEO, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, said: “We are incredibly grateful to each of our partners in this important, hands-on collaborative venture. Working together and with an array of others, we will support organizations whose programs are aimed at driving sustainable improvements to our education and workforce development systems so that everyone in Fairfield County and across Connecticut has the opportunity to thrive.”

“The Per and Astrid Heidenreich Family Foundation is excited about the opportunity to work with some of Fairfield County’s most philanthropic organizations as we launch this very promising endeavor. This collective vision provides a coordinated investment aimed at improving all facets of education in Norwalk,” said Michael Chambers, Executive Director, The Per and Astrid Heidenreich Family Foundation.

Kate Ritter, Executive Director of the Ritter Family Foundation, stated: “The establishment of the Collective Impact Opportunity Fund signifies our commitment as investors to being accountable for improved outcomes for children. The Ritter Family Foundation is thrilled to be working in direct partnership with like-minded funders, grantees and community stakeholders to identify needs, invest in solutions and measure our collective success with greater transparency, alignment and efficiency. What a great day for the children of Norwalk, Fairfield County and the State.”

About BeFoundation

BeFoundation’s mission is to support dramatic improvement in the educational outcomes of underserved students and the vitality of their communities. We are committed to preparing students for success in their academic, personal, and professional lives. We engage in collective action with public education systems, nonprofit organizations and municipalities to build and sustain effective pathways for children and youth that lead to family-supporting standards of living. If we commit to building and sustaining paths for student success in post-secondary education and beyond and learn together as a community about our successes and failures, we can support smart, creative and engaged communities where all children have outstanding opportunities. Learn more at

About Dalio Philanthropies

Dalio Philanthropies furthers the Dalio family’s diverse philanthropic passions, which include strengthening public education in Connecticut, financial inclusion and social entrepreneurship. Dalio Philanthropies has invested more than $50 million in the state’s public school districts, nonprofit organizations, and communities over the past four years alone. Barbara Dalio leads the work to strengthen public education by engaging with educators, community leaders, and young people to achieve positive outcomes and greater equity across the state. The Dalio Philanthropies’ education portfolio reflects her holistic approach, which includes championing public school educators and communities and empowering high school-aged youth to realize their potential. To learn more, visit: and follow us on Twitter @DalioEducation.

About The Ritter Family Foundation

The Ritter Family Foundation believes every child has the right to a quality education and social, emotional and physical support and learning, regardless of the zip code in which he or she is born. To that end, we invest in and partner with organizations that work to improve the opportunity, access and quality of services for children and families in under-resourced communities. Our philanthropic investments are aimed at improving children’s outcomes through community-based systems solutions and include the following areas of particular interest: Early Childhood Education; Third Grade Reading; K-12 Readiness and Achievement; Summer and Out of School Time; College and Career Readiness and Persistence; Social, Emotional and Physical Wellness. Learn more at