ProductPlan Cares: Q&A with the Equal Learning Fund

Caitie Gonzalez
Manager of Content Marketing at ProductPlan

productplan and the equal learning fund

Heart, humility, and hustle. These core values aren’t just central to how ProductPlan operates as a business. They also play a significant role in our Diversity and Inclusion efforts. Through our D&I Task Force, ProductPlan has partnered with several wonderful non-profit organizations helping the local Santa Barbara community.

We’d like to take a moment to highlight one of our non-profit partners, the Equal Learning Fund. And who better to talk about the ELF than its Founder, CEO, and Board President, Hannah Huelin-Meek?

Keep reading to learn more about Hannah and the Equal Learning Fund!

1. Can you tell us a little about your background and experience?

I’ve spent my entire career in the nonprofit world. So, before launching Equal Learning Fund, I worked for the Red Cross for almost 15 years in disaster relief and blood donations, but I’d always had a passion for helping with children’s causes, which led me to start Equal Learning Fund. Throughout my career, I’ve specialized in providing strategic vision and real-world solutions focused on building teams.

Bringing this expertise to my own nonprofit has been a gratifying endeavor.

2. What is the Equal Learning Fund, and what is its mission?

Equal Learning Fund is a 501c3 nonprofit organization created to help bridge the socioeconomic gaps for underserved youth. We believe that every child should have an equal opportunity for education regardless of socioeconomic status. We provide educational funds, school supplies, and program support to those most in need so that every child can have a chance at a great future.\

3. How does the Equal Learning Fund identify communities to support?

Equal Learning Fund prides itself on researching school district data, talking with educators, and working directly with our shelter partners and school programs to identify real-time needs. We have also been cautious only to take on the right number of community partners we can service and make meaningful impacts with based on our available funding.

equal learning fund backpack fundraiser

4. Having spent over 15 years in the non-profit sector, what led to the decision to create the Equal Learning Fund?

Before creating Equal Learning Fund in 2020, I had been pondering the idea for a couple of years. As mentioned, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for children’s causes, and even from a young age, I would donate and volunteer – the calling was definitely there!

Having grown up in the UK and attended college here in the US, I have had the opportunity to learn about different education systems and learning opportunities with a very objective lens. So, I knew there were gaps when it came to learning; this certainly was not a new issue, but when the pandemic hit, it brought these socioeconomic gaps to the forefront of so many households across the nation. Additionally, I knew families that could purchase laptops for virtual learning, get extra tutors, and help their kids continue to succeed, and then some families shared with me that their kids weren’t learning at all; there was no better time to launch than that moment.

5. What accomplishments are you most proud of with the Equal Learning Fund?

There are a couple; our backpack drives each year have been amazing, and providing kids with what they need to feel confident returning to school is great. I was able to meet with some of the families that received these, and it was heartwarming to hear their stories and see the direct impact of our work. The other accomplishment I feel really good about is being able to provide tutors in core academic subjects to some of the students we support. We get progress reports weekly, and it’s incredible to see the improvement week over week!

6. Where do you envision the Equal Learning Fund accomplishing in the next 10 years?

That’s a great question and one I love! Currently, our primary focus is on the California market, with some special projects sprinkled in. Our goal is to scale our model over the coming years so that we can do more nationally and eventually have more of a presence overseas.

7. What do you look for in a corporate partner?

Let me start by saying that we LOVE all our current partners and have a lot of respect for your team at ProductPlan; I often find myself sharing your company as an example because of the fantastic teamwork and partnership provided. We look for partners who are aligned in what they want to achieve from a giving standpoint; we also look at the company itself and the work they do to see if there might be further overlap and opportunities to collaborate. Ultimately though, we are looking for individuals who have a passion for making an impact and care about the communities that they are in – ProductPlan is an excellent example of this!

equal learning fund backpack fundraiser

8. What can companies like ProductPlan do to support organizations like yours?

There are a few ways companies can help:

  • Fundraisers – These give employees a chance to give back, help their communities, and get involved with a cause!
  • One-time donations – Great for targeting a specific impact.
  • Volunteering – We love our volunteers and strive to match individuals with projects they will enjoy! We offer virtual and in-person opportunities.
  • Spread the word – Help raise awareness.

9. How can folks participate and volunteer without a corporate affiliation?

Individuals can donate their time by volunteering or become an advocate for the cause by reaching out at Get Involved – Equal Learning Fund in Santa Barbara, CA.

10. Can you share any insights about the successes the Equal Learning Fund has seen over the years?

We are proud to have served over 2k students with school supplies, technology, and storytelling sessions! Also, we have provided over 600 backpacks, and over 700 reading books and tutored 15 students in core academic subjects. We have made significant impacts and want to do more! Check out the links below to our current fundraisers.

Is there anything else you would like to share or promote?

We’d like to thank Hannah and the Equal Learning Fund for being such an incredible partner to the ProductPlan Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. We look forward to continuing our efforts to support our local communities.

If ProductPlan sounds like the right fit for your next chapter, we’d love to hear from you. Take a look at our open roles at https://www.productplan.com/careers/.