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Navigating Childcare Grants and Other Funding Resources in North Carolina

Grants can provide much-needed financial assistance to childcare business owners. Learn about available childcare grants in North Carolina and tips to secure funding.

Navigating Childcare Grants and Other Funding Resources in North Carolina

Navigating Childcare Grants in North Carolina

Running a childcare program can be both rewarding and challenging, especially when it comes to managing the financial aspects. In North Carolina, state and private organizations recognize the vital role childcare providers play in the community's social and economic fabric. 

To support these programs, a variety of grants and financial aid options are available to help childcare providers maintain high-quality standards and improve their services. In this article, we’ll explore how to tap into these valuable resources to expand and enhance your childcare business in North Carolina.

What is a grant?

A grant is a sum of money given by an institution for a particular purpose. Unlike loans, grants are not required to be repaid. They are typically bestowed based on various factors such as financial need, the nature of the project, and the recipient's qualifications and are designed to support initiatives that align with the values and goals of the grant provider.

Understanding the intricate world of grants is an essential step in securing financial backing for your childcare business. Grants can cover a myriad of costs including facility upgrades, professional development for staff, and even program enhancements.

The U.S. government’s second and final funding package for fiscal year 2024 includes a $1 billion increase for programs focused on child care and early childhood education¹. This new funding includes an additional $275 million for the Head Start program and $725 million for the Child Care and Development Block Grant which funds state efforts to provide child care to families and improve the quality of care. 

Download a free grant writing guide for childcare programs here!

Childcare grants in North Carolina

North Carolina is home to a multitude of grant programs that cater specifically to childcare providers. In this section, we will take a deep dive into various state and private grants that are available to support your childcare operations.

Grants and resources from government agencies

The North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education is the lead state agency that oversees the distribution of the federal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) in North Carolina. This funding can be in the form of certificates, grants, or contracts to provide childcare services to low-income families or improve the quality of care provided.

North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Development and Early Education offers initiatives and resources to significantly ease the financial burden of running a childcare business: 

  • Child Care Stabilization Grants: This non-competitive financial award is given to eligible childcare programs across the state to ensure that childcare providers can continue offering vital services. This grant can be used to cover expenses such as rent, utilities, maintenance, and staff salaries. 
  • NC Pre-K Program: The NC Pre-K Program is a state-funded initiative designed to provide high-quality educational experiences to eligible four-year-olds to prepare them for kindergarten. Childcare providers who host NC Pre-K classrooms may receive funding to cover the cost of the program, ensuring access to early education for children across the state.
  • Subsidized Child Care: Although not a typical grant, the Subsidized Child Care Program offers financial assistance to eligible low-income families to pay for child care. Childcare providers who participate in this program receive payments for their services, supporting a more inclusive business model.

Group of preschool children with teacher looking at and touching a globe.Source

Professional development support

Investing in the professional development of childcare staff is crucial for maintaining quality in early childhood education. There are numerous programs in the state of North Carolina that are focused on supporting educators.

Child Care Services Association (CCSA)

The Child Care Services Association (CCSA) in North Carolina is a pivotal organization dedicated to ensuring that families and providers have access to quality childcare and early education services. For childcare providers, CCSA offers comprehensive resources, including financial assistance through scholarship programs, workforce development initiatives, and operational support. Some examples of relevant initiatives include:

    • Child Care WAGE$: The Child Care WAGE$ program is aimed at improving the quality of childcare services by providing education-based salary supplements to teachers, directors, and family childcare providers working with young children. This program not only helps in retaining skilled professionals but also ensures children have access to high-quality early education.
    • Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$ Plus: Similar to the WAGE$ program, this initiative offers education-based salary supplements to teachers working full-time with children birth through age two in North Carolina.
  • T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood North Carolina: This scholarship program offers financial assistance to childcare providers pursuing further education in early childhood education or administration. This program supports the professional development of educators by covering tuition, books, and even a stipend for time away from work, aiming to elevate the qualifications and expertise of those working in the childcare sector.

Smart Start

Smart Start is North Carolina's early childhood initiative to improve the quality of childcare. Funding is allocated to local partnerships that provide grants to childcare programs for a range of needs, from classroom materials to technology upgrades. 

Grants from private foundations

Private foundations are often at the forefront of supporting innovations and capacity-building in the childcare industry. They offer a wide array of grants that could offer a competitive edge to your childcare business.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation prioritizes early childhood health initiatives through grants that support access to high-quality early education programs and promote children's physical, emotional, and social well-being.

Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation

Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation distributes grants in four focus areas (human needs, environmental stewardship, education, community vitality) to organizations within geographic areas where Dominion Energy provides electricity or natural gas service, including North Carolina (Northeast region).

The Duke Energy Foundation

Although broader in scope, the Duke Energy Foundation considers grants for educational programs, including those related to early childhood development and STEM, in areas served by Duke Energy.

Foundation for the Carolinas

The Foundation for the Carolinas (FFTC) manages dozens of competitive grant programs to advance a variety of community initiatives throughout the region, including early education programs. 

The PNC Foundation

Through its Grow Up Great initiative, the PNC Foundation supports early childhood education efforts, offering grants to providers for curriculum development, teacher training, and classroom resources in North Carolina and beyond.

The Winston-Salem Foundation

Dedicated to building a stronger community in Forsyth County, this foundation provides grants and scholarships aimed at improving the quality of life for residents. It supports early childhood education initiatives, focusing on access, quality, and innovation in programs that serve young children.

Federal grants and funding opportunities

The federal government offers a variety of grants and funding opportunities to support childcare providers across the United States, including North Carolina. These grants are designed to improve access to quality childcare, support the professional development of childcare workers, and enhance the learning environments for children under their care. Some key federal funding sources include:

U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) offers discretionary grants that are awarded using a competitive process, as well as student loans or grants to attend college, and formula grants determined by Congress. Here are some helpful resources to explore:

  • ED grants homepage: The ED grants homepage allows you to browse funding opportunities, links to grant applications, and your eligibility status.
  • The website is the central location that provides information on grants across the federal government. You can search for and apply to different funding opportunities, determine your eligibility, and access grant writing tips. 
  • Head Start and Early Head Start Programs: Aimed at promoting school readiness for children under five from low-income families, these programs provide grants directly to public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies to provide comprehensive child development services. The Office of Head Start (OHS) posts notices of funding opportunities (NOFOs) that seek applications for grand funds. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) manages various financial assistance programs for rural applications. One example is the Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Program that provides funds to be used to purchase, construct and/or improve essential community facilities like childcare centers, purchase equipment, and pay related project expenses in rural areas with no more than 20,000 residents.

Applying for grants

Applying for childcare grants in North Carolina can be a competitive process, as funding is often limited. To increase your chances of receiving a grant, it’s essential to carefully review and follow all application guidelines and requirements. Here are some general steps to take when applying for childcare grants:

  • Meet all licensing requirements: Ensure that your program meets all of the licensing requirements in North Carolina. Maintaining licensing compliance shows a commitment to high-quality standards and is often also required for you to be eligible for specific grants and funding opportunities.
  • Do your research and determine your eligibility: Research available grants and determine which ones align with your needs and goals. Before applying, check to see that you meet all the necessary criteria. Most (but not all) government grants are aimed at 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, so be sure to read the eligibility requirements carefully.
  • Gather your documentation: Most grant applications will ask for specific documentation, such as financial statements, demographic information, licenses, and certifications. Be sure to have these prepared in advance. With brightwheel you can quickly and easily access custom reporting to meet your specific needs.
  • Write a compelling grant proposal: Read successful grant applications to learn how to structure your approach. Include an executive summary of your project and clearly define the need or problem your childcare services address. Provide a detailed description of your program and list your objectives and expected outcomes. Follow all grant application instructions, have someone else review your proposal before submitting, and submit your application on time. 

Download a free grant writing guide for childcare programs here!


Additional tips for success

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when applying for grants for your childcare center:

  • Stay informed: Connect and engage with local and state organizations focused on early childhood education. If possible, join their email lists or follow their social media pages, as these organizations will often share grant and funding information as it becomes available. Also, regularly check the websites of federal agencies to stay informed on available grants or programs. 
  • Create a budget: A comprehensive childcare center budget will highlight the financial needs and priorities of your program and give funders a clear understanding of how a grant will be utilized. With a clear picture of your program’s finances, you can also maximize the impact of any funding that is received.
  • Plan a fundraiser: Hosting a fundraising event can raise necessary funds for your program. Have a bake sale, organize a silent auction, or host a trivia night. 
  • Hire a grant proposal writer: If your budget allows, consider hiring a grant proposal writer. A grant proposal writer can craft a compelling narrative about your program and navigate the complexities of the grant application process for you.

Final thoughts

Grants and other forms of financial assistance are vital resources that can help childcare providers not only survive but thrive in today's competitive market. By taking advantage of the various grant programs available in North Carolina, you can elevate your childcare business to new heights while providing high-quality care for the children in your community.


1. “Former Preschool Teacher Patty Murray Delivers $1 Billion More to Help Families Find and Afford Child Care & Pre-K”, United States Senate Committee on Appropriations, 03/21/2024.

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