Better Way Foundation’s partners are finding a better way to build a future where child well-being contributes to strong families and communities


We are halfway through a 10-year, $10 million strategic initiative to support the advancement of Indigenous early childhood development.

In assessing how to explore IECD, we started by learning from Indigenous communities and following their lead. This includes partnering with Echo Hawk Consulting in the development of a landscape analysis and listening to current and prospective partners.

Investment priorities include:

  • IECD leadership and staff development
  • Supporting transitions from pre-K to Kindergarten
  • Truth & Healing work to mitigate intergenerational trauma
  • Development of IECD programs and curriculum integrating Native languages & cultures

Grant-making strategies include:

  • Multi-year grants throughout long-term partnerships
  • Systems approaches to bring diverse stakeholder together
  • Networks & collaborations
  • Piloting new projects and programs
  • Multi-year grants


We support the American Indian Catholic Schools Network and its member schools as they collectively advance three pillars:

  • Professional development
  • Marketing and advancement
  • Truth & Healing

We also provide member schools with direct grants, supporting projects aligned with the network’s priorities, such as Native language instruction, educator development, and technology improvements.

Network member schools

De La Salle Blackfeet School

Little Flower Academy

Maȟpíya Lύta – Red Cloud Indian School

Truth & Healing project – Part II

St. Anthony’s Indian School

Zuni Language & Culture Program

St. Augustine Indian Mission School

Blended learning expansion

St. Joseph Mission School

Kindergarten & Pre-K support

St. Mary’s Mission School

Expanding donor base and increasing donations launch

St. Michael Indian School

Early Education Development Cultural Learning Center
**not a part of the network**


Intergenerational trauma and the boarding school era significantly impact the work of our IECD partners to build better futures for Native children, families, and communities.

We approach Truth & Healing at the intersection of our broad partnerships and our Catholic roots. We are compelled by our mission, vision, and values and guided by our Native community partners to think about the ways we can support Truth & Healing in a humble, authentic way.

We began this work in 2018 with a convening of a Truth, Healing & Reconciliation Task Force that included partners to explore both the landscape and opportunities. We are currently building out our commitments to support Truth & Healing.



In 2007, we explored programs for vulnerable children in East Africa, and made early grants in eastern Tanzania. After deepening relationships and integrating early lessons, we focused investments on direct ECD delivery organizations and national advocacy for ECD. In addition to supporting increased access to ECD, we connected our partners with Results for Development to build their capacity to monitor, evaluate, and strengthen programs. After nearly 15 years of partnership, we have achieved many of the goals of this initiative, and in 2022 our board voted to begin responsible exit.


As our Tanzania initiative winds down (through 2025), we are committed to responsible exit to ensure the stability of our partner organizations and the long-term sustainability of ECD in Tanzania. Learn more about our partnership framework and lifecycle.


Healthy Children, Healthy Nations (2018-2020)

The initiative’s launch followed the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis establishing the Center for Indian Country Development in 2015 (it identified ECD in Indian Country as one of its focus areas).

In partnership with Echo Hawk Consulting, the center, and the Shakopee Mdewankanton Sioux, we aligned on three objectives: (1) Gain a better understanding of the IECD landscape in Minnesota and the 11 Native Nations in it; (2) Spotlight the excellent work of IECD providers; and (3) Engage funders in learning and reflection to drive more philanthropic dollars toward IECD.

The initiative produced an extensive report and partners hosted a conference to plan actions stemming from it. Shakopee Mdewankanton Sioux and Better Way then seeded a new Healthy Children, Healthy Nations Fund to bring new resources to IECD. Casey Family Programs contributed additional funding.

The fund awarded $200,000-plus in 2019 and has helped raise the profile of IECD and engage other funders in it.

Explore the report.

Indigenous evaluation (2016-2020)

Indigenous evaluation was an important part of the recommendations from the 2016 Echo Hawk Indigenous ECD Landscape Report. In 2018, we began learning about Indigenous evaluation with expert Dr. Teresa Peterson (Upper Sioux Community) and consulting with Dr. Shelly Valdez and Jill Stein to help IECD partners build out evaluation strategies. Learnings and Indigenous evaluation principals informed our current Evaluation Framework.

Learn more about the evaluation.

Crystal Echo Hawk Landscape & Opportunities Report (2016)

In 2016, Echo Hawk Consulting completed research on the landscape of ECD service provision in Native communities and analyzed opportunities, challenges, and potential entry points for our support and engagement. Recommendations include supporting Native-led and -serving organizations to:

  • Facilitate collaboration, networks, and partnerships
  • Teacher recruitment and retention
  • Native language and culture
  • Planning and capacity building
  • Mental health
  • Facilities improvement

The report also calls for using grant strategies, such as core support grants, systems approaches, geographically focused work, and multi-year grants.

Discover more in the full report.

University-Community Partnerships (2009-2020)

This initiative, inherited during the merger from the original Better Way Foundation, provided seed funding for innovative ideas that faculty at Catholic Universities put forward to support ECD research and education: Catholic University of America, St. Catherine University, Boston College, University of Dayton and University of Great Falls.

Take a look at the report.

© Copyright - Better Way Foundation