Organizational Strategy2022-02-02T13:02:29-05:00
30th Annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths® Celebration


CDF Community,

Inevitably when one enters a new role of community leadership and responsibility people ask, “What’s your vision for the future?” As I began service to the Children’s Defense Fund’s mission in December 2020, I fielded this question from media, staff, funders, and other colleagues in the social sector. My most authentic answer (which some found insufficient) was, “I don’t have a vision. Right now, I’m working to get a view.”

What I needed was the time, opportunity, and ability to see — the state of our movement and institution at a moment in time. With a clear view, I would be able to develop an informed opinion (or point of view). At best, I had a sense of our call. Vision becomes clear as one gains perspective and sight. Vision is shaped through discernment in community. Vision is OURS, not mine. So, I’m grateful for the time members of this community invested over the last year to discern a collective vision and develop our organizational strategy.

The Children’s Defense Fund envisions a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive.

The Board clarified organizational direction. Partners and stakeholders gave interviews and important perspective. The staff team completed assessments and recommendations through task forces on culture, operational efficiency, and program strategy. Facilitators, consultants, and subject matter researchers guided us through the journey. Every person lived the wisdom to “keep the baby in the center of the table.” Thank you.

The following pages reflect our collective vision and strategy for the coming years. To realize our vision, we will pursue a movement-building and institutional growth strategy to build power for child-centered public policy, informed by racial equity and the lived experience of children and youth. This three-year evolution will complement CDF’s well-regarded public policy legacy and leverage milestones of the 25th anniversary of CDF Freedom Schools® marked in 2020, the 30th anniversary of the Black Community Crusade for Children in 2021, and CDF’s 50th anniversary in 2023.

I hope this gives you a view of how we work for 74 million children and youth across the country…and you can see yourself in the plan.

For our children,

Dr. Starsky Wilson

Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson
President & CEO
Children’s Defense Fund
& CDF Action Council


The Children’s Defense Fund is the only national, multi-issue advocacy organization working at the intersection of child well-being and racial justice by wielding the moral authority of programmatic proximity and community organizing to inform public policy.

Who We Serve

CDF serves and advocates for the largest, most diverse generation in America: the 74 million children and youth under the age of 18 and 30 million young adults under the age of 25, with particular attention to those living in poverty and communities of color. We partner with policymakers, aligned organizations and funders to serve children, youth, and young adults.

Where We Serve

Washington, D.C.; Nearly 100 U.S. Cities and Thirty (30) U.S. States or Territories


– Public Affairs, including Federal and State Policy Advocacy, Public Education and Communications Campaigns

– Literacy and Leadership Development, including our widely regarded CDF Freedom Schools®

– Movement Building, including place-based work through State and Territorial Offices and Targeted Community Organizing

Business Model

To unify organizational culture, maintain an independent voice for children, and ensure institutional sustainability, our funding formula will pursue:

– A unified organizational budget, reorienting development, finance and information technology functions as national service units, while consolidating communications and marketing efforts as program functions.

– A diffuse and diverse mix of foundation grants, major individual gifts ($10K+ per annum) or bequests, program fees and signature events.

– A socially responsive investment strategy producing 5% per annum of general operating revenue from organizational investments after inflation.


Our roots in the civil rights movement, especially the Mississippi Freedom Struggle and Poor People’s Campaign, inform our work. Transforming root causes of oppression and shifting power are essential for our vision.

Equity is “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all.”1

1 The Equity Manifesto. Please read the entire statement at The Equity Manifesto | PolicyLink.
We serve with humility, kindness, and urgency. By sharing and seeking empathy and understanding, we center people living at the margins.
We are transparent, accountable, and reliable. We earn and honor relationship by showing up consistently, listening deeply, and partnering to make change together.

“Love is a form of sweet labor: fierce, bloody, imperfect, and life-giving—a choice we make over and over again.”2  We practice, model, and teach it by prioritizing children.

2  See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valerie Kaur, 2021.


Unifying organizational culture through

  • Implementation of aligned compensation and performance development systems.
  • Ongoing values and racial equity initiatives.
  • Conversion to collaborative technology platforms.

Increasing sustainability by

  • Recalibrating investment policies.
  • Initiating a multi-year capital campaign to increase general operating revenue.
  • Developing a business model for CDF Alex Haley Farm.

Enhancing program strategy by

  • Developing an integrated theory of change for CDF Freedom Schools®, Movement Building, and Public Policy areas.
  • Increasing footprint to more than 100 U.S. cities and 40 U.S. States or Territories.
  • Integrating targeted organizing efforts for faith communities, students and youth, and CDF alumni.


30th Annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbaths® Celebration


The Children’s Defense Fund’s Leave No Child Behind mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.