Institute for Human and Social Development, Inc.

Fall-Winter 2016
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Business Plans,
Marketing & Communications
Organization Type


Founded in 1983, the Institute for Human and Social Development (IHSD) is a Head Start and Early Head Start grantee, providing comprehensive child development and support services to at-risk, low-income children zero to five years old and their families in San Mateo County. IHSD uses research-based curriculums to educate children in pre-math and pre-literacy and also ensures that each child’s health, dental, nutrition, mental health, and special needs are assessed and supported individually. Families are engaged and supported with parent education, leadership opportunities, and community resources and referrals for parent-identified needs. IHSD offers five different program options for over 750 families annually: Head Start Center Based, Head Start Home Based, Early Head Start Center Based, Early Head Start Home Based, and Family Childcare. It has twenty-six classrooms and thirteen sites in Half Moon Bay, East Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Mateo, South San Francisco, and Daly City, as well as a satellite office in Pescadero. Of these centers, ten are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).


IHSD is facing two critical challenges. As a primarily federal funded entity, it is restricted to address only the population below the poverty line. The federal poverty guidelines are not adjusted to reflect San Mateo County cost of living, leaving a large number of children unable to qualify. The number of people below the federal poverty line in San Mateo County is decreasing despite many families who are living the equivalent of a poverty-level life. A First 5 assessment indicated that in 2015, there were 7,800 children between the ages zero to five in San Mateo County that needed care and early childhood education opportunities. Additionally, with costs of living in San Mateo County increasing and funding amounts remaining flat, IHSD has had difficulty paying sustainable living wages to retain and recruit staff.

In addition, there is a changing landscape regarding preschool delivery, which puts more funding into transitional kindergarten efforts and preschool programs, such as The Big Lift. IHSD is a contractor for the Big Lift in some school districts, but the Big Lift program will attract competition in the three to five age range.

Project Objectives

The ACT team was asked to research ways in which IHSD might expand its business scope beyond federally funded services to offer high quality early child development and support to San Mateo County families that do not qualify for subsidized care. The project focused on the development of a pilot program for zero to three year old children, as well as a center-based classroom service directed at those families.

Project Overview

The ACT team created a business plan for this center-based classroom service which included:

  • a financial model,
  • an operating framework,
  • an exploration of funding sources,
  • and a marketing plan.

Key Recommendations

  • Decide on child care service and revenue mix that IHSD can achieve
  • Explore strategic funders/partners for investment and shared infrastructure
  • Develop mobile-ready marketing communications for target parents and referral sources with IHSD brand extension
  • If achievable and funded, try pilot to test assumptions, systems, marketing, pricing, and market fit
  • Determine feasibility and sustainability of financial model
  • Consider an alliance or merger with another nonprofit

Key Conclusions

Success will be dependent on sustainable financial model, expanded outreach, successful development, and investment partners. A sustainable fee-based early childhood learning service for lower and middle income families is not possible without supplemental funding from federal and state programs, early childhood learning coalitions, partners, sponsors, and corporate and individual donors. 

Final Report Outline

  • Project objective and work plan
  • Market analysis
  • Benchmarking of child care centers
  • Business plan
  • Marketing timeline and development plan
  • Readiness
  • Recommendations
  • Discussion