The Local Financing for Early Learning initiative has created a North Carolina Community Toolkit, offering an extensive free resource for communities seeking to enhance early childhood education programs by tapping into local financial resources. This toolkit delves into the intricate landscape of local government structures, budgetary processes, existing funding channels, and strategies to bolster local revenue streams. It provides case studies spotlighting successful local endeavors, with ongoing updates to showcase evolving best practices.

Since 2016, NCECF has supported NC communities in pursuing local investments for early childhood. We published a toolkit and website, Local Funding for Early Learning: A North Carolina Community Toolkit, which details local funding mechanisms to expand early childhood investments.

In North Carolina, early childhood investments have typically been funded with federal, state and lottery dollars. Local revenue streams offer another means to expand early learning programs and practices for communities, particularly as child populations are growing and demand for programs is increasing.

The toolkit offers communities information on how local governments are organized, the local budget process, existing federal and state funding streams for early learning, financial mechanisms to generate local revenue, including those that can be employed now and those that would require a change in state policy, and tools to assess community readiness for a local investment initiative. Twenty-two case studies from across the country highlight local initiatives including results, steps communities took to get those results and challenges and opportunities each faced. New case studies are added annually including four in 2021.

We offer trainings to accompany the toolkit for highly interested communities who convene a team to spend a day assessing readiness for a local investment initiative.  Contact lfinaldi@buildthefoundation.org if you are interested in further information.


  • 180 Chambers of Commerce and business leaders, local elected and appointed officials, Smart Start Local Partnerships and philanthropists from six counties – Buncombe, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Transylvania, and Watauga – have participated in our all-day training to learn about local financing options for early learning.
  • Three of six participating communities have introduced a local financing initiative in their counties.
  • All six participating communities are actively engaged in the Learning Community.
  • 94% of training participants ranked the day a 4 or a 5 (well worth my time).

“Extremely useful overview of options and possibilities. The dynamic of sharing lessons learned, challenges and out of the box ideas with other counties/municipalities was really motivating,” Maureen Copelof, Brevard City Council Member.

  • More than 38,000 people have visited the toolkit website since its launch in 2016.

Promote Understanding

We build awareness on how communities could provide local funding for early learning through our online toolkit and training opportunities for communities ready to explore local financing options.

Spearhead Collaboration

We support a Learning Community on local financing with the NC Budget and Tax Center to connect communities around what’s working, challenges and opportunities for collaboration and shared strategies.

Advance Policy

We publish case studies from North Carolina and across the country about successful local financing initiatives and the state policies that have enabled local action.

Advancing Work

Fall 2021

NCECF publishes four case studies – two renewals of early learning program funding in San Antonio and Cincinnati; and two new initiatives in Multnomah County, OR and St. Louis, MO.


April 2019

Three new case studies are added to the toolkit. The case studies document local financing initiatives in Mecklenburg County, NC; Cuyahoga County, Ohio and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

April 2018

New case study for Portland, Oregon is published.

February 2018

NCECF delivers local financing workshop at the Institute for Emerging Issues 2018 Forum.

December 2017

Second local financing training of 30 leaders from Guilford, Transylvania and Watauga counties. NCECF partners with the national Forum for Youth Investment, the NC Budget and Tax Center and the NC Association of County Commissioners to provide the training. Cincinatti City Council Member Greg Landsman shares his experience in spearheding a winning 2017 property tax ballot initiative to fund more access to early learning.

November 2017

NCECF presents overview of the local financing toolkit to a Blue Ribbon Commission at the Institute for Emerging Issues Forum.

August 2017

Two new case studies are added to the toolkit. Bright Spots for Early Learning is published, documenting communities in NC where local funding is used for early learning and where local initiatives are pending.

December 2016

First local financing training of 30 local leaders from Durham, Forsyth and Buncombe counties. NCECF partners with the national Forum for Youth Investment, the NC Budget and Tax Center and the NC Association of County Commissioners. At the training, the director of Pre-K 4 SA (San Antonio, TX) shares the story of implementing the expansion of preschool for low income families through a sales tax increase.

May 2016

NCECF and the NC Budget and Tax Center present local financing toolkit at national Smart Start conference.

April 2016

Toolkit and accompanying local financing website launched with eight case studies.

What Community Leaders are Saying About the Local Financing Toolkit and Training

“I don’t often see this level of quality work – so you are to be congratulated for the accomplishment.  And as President of the UNC School of Government Foundation, I am really pleased to see you using the great resources of the institution that gave me my start in public service.”

Ed Kitchen
Vice President
Joseph M. Bryan Foundation

“The new on-line resource  Local Funding for Early Learning: A Community Toolkit  is fabulous!  Very comprehensive. Very easy to use. Really nice job. Kudos!”

Louise Stoney
Alliance for Early Childhood Finance
Opportunities Exchange

“Communities are hungry for better ways to meet the needs of their children. There is a dearth of information on how to grow resources locally. This toolkit provides such an excellent guide to those who care about North Carolina children.”

Elizabeth Gaines
Senior Fellow
Forum for Youth Investment (now Executive Director of the Children’s Funding Project)

“If your community is considering locally expanding early care and education services, the toolkit and workshop supplied by NCECF and the Budget and Tax Center is essential to your planning.  Please take advantage of these wonderful resources. It will move the discussion forward!”  

Jennie Eblen
Asheville Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative

“The training was valuable because it put together different stakeholders to develop a strategy based in real knowledge of different ways to reach it, from the funding standpoint and making the case.”

Pilar Rocha
Executive Director
El Centro Hispano

“Today was a great combination of usable, accurate and contextual facts blended with focus on how to enact change with that data. Thanks for keeping us on task and bringing this opportunity to all of us.”

David Jackson
President and CEO
Boone Area Chamber of Commerce

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