Blended and Braided Funding Arrangements

Abstract photo of people meeting and shaking handsBlended funding pools have been used for many years, while the concept of braiding funding is a more recent approach. Both approaches combine funds from different federal and/or state agencies or programs into a single funding stream so they are indistinguishable at the point of service delivery. A benefits planner has an important role. The term "benefits planning" refers to a person-centered analysis on how employment activity impacts a person's benefits. Its aim is to enhance the self-sufficiency and economic wellness of beneficiaries by assisting them to make informed decisions about employment and benefits. This is not an easy task because there are many misconceptions surrounding the impact of work and your monthly benefits.

Blended funding: Funds are combined into a single pool from which they can be allocated to providers.

Braided funding: Funds from various sources are used to pay for a service package for an individual child, but tracking and accountability for each pot of money is maintained at the administrative level. The funds remain in separate strands but are joined or "braided" for the individual child and family.

To local providers of care and for families, blended and braided funding streams should look the same. However, braiding avoids some potential difficulties with blended funding pools in that it recognizes the categorical nature of how we fund services in this country.


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Understanding Blending and Braiding

The terms blending and braiding are often used without any clear definition of what they mean.  Blending and braiding are very different, but complementary, fiscal approaches.  They are both tools for using multiple funding streams to support a common group of activities on behalf of a defined population in need.

Defining Blending
Blending funding involves commingling the funds into one "pot" where case managers can draw down service dollars, personnel expenses can be paid, or other program needs can be met.  When funding is blended, it goes into the "pot" and when it is pulled back out to pay for an expense, there is no means for the fiscal manager to report which funding stream paid for exactly which expense.

Blending funding is politically challenging.  Some funding streams cannot be blended.  Other streams will require the funder to allow an exception to how reporting normally functions.  Funders have to accept receiving reports on services and outcomes across the population being served, rather than exactly which children, youth, and families received services with their dollars.  To blend your funding, you will need to work closely with your funder and ensure you can meet their reporting requirements.

Defining Braiding
Braided funding involves multiple funding streams utilized to pay for all of the services needed by a given population, with careful accounting of how every dollar from each stream is spent.  The term braiding is used because multiple funding streams are initially separate, brought together to pay for more than any one stream can support, and then carefully pulled back apart to report to funders on how the money was spent.

Braided funding is often the only option.  Most federal funding streams require careful tracking of staff time, with requirements for allocation of personnel hours and other expenses to specific federal streams.  Consequently, when multiple funding streams are paying for a single program or system, the system will need to be carefully designed to allow for sufficient reporting to ensure each funding stream is only paying for activities eligible under that stream.



Hartford Foundation for Giving

Hartford Foundation for Public Giving: Proposed Strategic Plan 2011-2016 2 

Mission of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving As Greater Hartford's community wide charitable endowment, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is permanently committed to improving the quality of life for residents throughout the region. 

To achieve this goal, we: 

 provide financial and other support that enables people and institutions to serve the community effectively; 

 promote informed charitable giving in order to expand the region's philanthropic resources; and 

 participate actively in efforts to identify important community needs and opportunities, as well as the means to address them.



Executive Summary Building on Our History to Help Drive Regional Prosperity Over the course of the past year, the board and staff of the Hartford Foundation embarked on a considered process to develop a strategic plan. The goal was to determine how to use the Foundation’s resources, expertise and relationships to their fullest extent to meet the highest needs of the Greater Hartford community. There was a desire to achieve greater impact and to take on a stronger leadership role, as had been expressed by our constituents over time. The plan is derived from hard evidence of changing regional trends indicating striking economic, education and workforce preparedness gaps. The plan also reflects significant community input about these trends, as well as about the future role that the Hartford Foundation might play in influencing these trends for the benefit of all residents of this region. Further, the plan grows from the Foundation’s 86-year history, and its core competencies and values. It builds on its primary strengths as a responsive grantmaker, expertise in building the capacity of nonprofit organizations, and deeper knowledge gained across several education, adult literacy and workforce initiatives. The plan also calls for the Hartford Foundation to play a stronger leadership role in the region, and to make fuller use of all the philanthropic tools that 21st century community foundations have at their disposal. After a year of broad community input and thoughtful Foundation-wide planning, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving not only reaffirms its mission to improve the quality of life for residents throughout the region and its longstanding commitment to broad-based, responsive grantmaking, but also announces its plan to focus on two key strategic areas. These areas are: helping to close the education achievement gap and supporting the development of a skilled workforce in the region.


What We Plan to Do

Principles Guiding the Strategic Plan

As we undertake our work, we will:

  • Build on the Foundation’s and the community’s current work in the areas of capacity building, research, advocacy, leadership, and collaboration.
  • Apply grantmaking tools to support promising community solutions.
  • Build the capacity of nonprofits to maintain a strong and thriving nonprofit sector.
  • Support community access to and use of evaluation, research, evidence-based practices, and core standards and assessments.
  • Encourage systemic change through strengthened connections among community members, nonprofits, business, government, and other funders.
  • Create a learning environment that supports innovation and broadly shares knowledge.
  • Serve as a catalyst, convener, facilitator, and engaged participant in community planning and problem-solving efforts.
  • Engage donors and residents to realize shared goals.
  • Pursue a policy and advocacy agenda that supports long-term solutions to community challenges.

Mapping Our Journey

In 2010, the Foundation began exploring ways to be an even stronger, more proactive partner in the success of our region. We held focus groups and spoke with almost 700 Greater Hartford community, business and nonprofit leaders, donors, and funders who shared their insights and experiences.

Nearly 700 individuals provided their insights and perspectives about the region’s strengths and challenges, as well as their perceptions of the Hartford Foundation.

There was remarkable consensus about where the Foundation needs to strengthen its focus and commit more energy. Pressing issues identified included the disparity in overall quality of life between residents of Hartford and surrounding communities, the achievement gap, and the disconnect between available jobs and skills of the workforce.

There is evidence of a potentially widening chasm. As the regional economy shifts to a more service-oriented focus, there is limited opportunity for many residents to participate in new and emerging job sectors, which typically require a two- or four-year college education or specialized training. An educated and skilled workforce is essential to productive and livable communities.

And Now, the Work

The Hartford Foundation remains committed to its longstanding mission to improve the quality of life for residents throughout the region. Responsive grantmaking will remain a core Foundation role.

Our strategic plan builds on our continuing work in the education, literacy and workforce development arenas, and on that of many of our partners. And it is just a beginning.

Over the next several months, we will be talking with our current partners, and potential new ones, to learn more about how we can work together to achieve the outcomes we all want to see in our region.

The vision we have described is not written in stone; it will flex and change as we learn lessons along the way. We invite your ideas on how this is possible. Let’s work together to shape our region’s future. Let’s Accelerate Success!

We want to know what you think. Please contact us with your ideas and input at 860-548-1888,, or comment here on our website.


Strengthening the Sector

A strong nonprofit community is essential to tackling the two toughest issues facing Greater Hartford: the education achievement gap and the income gap.

The Hartford Foundation provides our nonprofit partners with information about trends and best practices, and training and guidance on ways to build their infrastructure.

The Hartford Foundation has long been nationally recognized for our Nonprofit Support Program, which provides learning opportunities, assessments, grants, consultation and networking to help nonprofits achieve their missions most effectively.

We will seek to build on these services, especially as they relate to the key areas of our strategic plan, and support the development of effective new partnerships. We can help make the valuable work that nonprofits perform every day reach farther and impact more of the community.

We will also support the community’s access to research and promising practices in the areas of education and workforce development. We will help to create a “learning environment” that shares ideas and knowledge and supports innovation.

Towards those ends, the Hartford Foundation has identified two cross-cutting goals to support and enhance our strategic work.

Nonprofit Capacity Building (Strengthening the Sector Goal 1)

Provide resources and support, including through the Nonprofit Support Program, which will strengthen:

  • Agencies carrying out agreed-to strategies and activities in support of the Foundation’s strategic areas.
  • Improved collaboration among agencies, foundations, government, and any other partners implementing projects in the strategic areas.

Data and Technology (Strengthening the Sector Goal 2)

Develop and support systems for data and information collection, analysis and sharing to establish community needs and measure outcomes.



Hartford Community Schools

The Hartford Community Schools initiative continued its growth – and earned national recognition – as it completed its third year at some of the most challenged schools in the city in 2011.


The five-school initiative was launched in 2008 in conjunction with a school reform plan to close the achievement gap between Hartford students and their suburban counterparts. The Hartford Foundation was instrumental in its creation, offering insights and lessons learned from its long-running After-School Initiative, and supported the effort with a three-year, $3.1 million grant. In 2011, that commitment was renewed with over $1.6 million in grants for a fourth year.

Built around a strong instructional core, community schools remain open well beyond the hours of a regular school day – before and after school, into the evening, even weekends, and throughout the summer – to offer an array of educational, cultural, medical and social services for the entire family.

The Hartford Foundation grants are awarded to three nonprofit agencies, which coordinate the services with school officials. Services added at some schools during 2011 included a mobile health van, financial literacy classes for parents, a dinner program for students and parents, a pre-school program to provide a safe place to complete homework, and a collaborative program with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

Four of the five schools historically have been among Hartford’s most persistently low-performing. Four also serve a large number of English Language Learners and students with special needs. While the core of each community school is the same – academic instruction, support and enrichment – the overall profile of each school varies based on the particular needs of students and families. Hartford has 25,000 students, with more than 90 percent classified as living in poverty. Hartford is the second poorest city per capita in the country, while Connecticut is the second wealthiest state in the nation in median income.

While Community Schools hold great promise, their full development is complex and arduous. But the concept of addressing children’s educational needs holistically corresponds with our strategic plan, Accelerate Success. Sara Sneed, director of education investments at the Hartford Foundation

Hartford Community Schools’ progress was showcased in October at a conference held in New York City by the National Center for Community Schools, a division of The Children’s Aid Society of New York. Building Community Schools: A Guide for Action, an 80-page report prepared for the conference, also noted about Hartford’s community schools: “An external evaluation conducted by the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning in Philadelphia showed significant results for students in the after-school programs of the five community schools, including gains across the three Connecticut Mastery Test subject areas.”

Sandra Ward, director of Hartford Community Schools, along with the site director from one school and an evaluator, spoke at a conference workshop that focused on approaches to evaluation, results, and best practices in Hartford. Two additional community schools are in a planning stage during the 2011-12 academic year with a broader launch of services scheduled for 2012-13.

Hartford Community Schools are supported by a partnership of the Hartford Foundation, Hartford Public Schools, the City of Hartford, represented by its Department of Families, Children, Youth and Recreation, the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, and Achieve Hartford!, a nonprofit advocate for education reform. Additional funding is provided by state and federal agencies and corporations.


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