First Things First (FTF) is Arizona’s only public funding source exclusively dedicated to early childhood, partners with families, and communities to support the healthy development and learning of the state’s children birth to age 5. They do this by investing in programs and strategies through grants to community organizations that provide services to children and families; provide professional expertise and oversight to support local programs and statewide initiatives; and collaborate with other early childhood system partners. Since 2009, FTF has turned to ACS to provide guidance and support for advocacy, communication, strategy development, and capacity building.


How we did it: For nearly 10 years, ACS has become an integral part of FTF’s efforts. Our work has included (but isn’t limited to):

  1. Communication – Conducting messaging research and developing messages that resonate with a variety of target audiences. Developing a three-year communication plan for reaching target audiences.
  2. Capacity Building – Increasing the capacity of outreach staff and regional directors to facilitate and serve as spokespersons for FTF.
  3. Strategy Development – Forging advocacy and communication strategies for several FTF-led initiatives. Providing ongoing facilitation services for extended periods (6 months to two years) with diverse sets of stakeholders from across the state for a variety of purposes, including establishing long-term strategic direction and sustainable financing options for the Quality Improvement Rating System, standardizing early childhood screening tools, and establishing a strategic vision and strategies by facilitating the Arizona Early Childhood Task Force and committees.

Outcomes to date: With our help, FTF’s efforts have increased awareness of and support across the state, and FTF has the capacity to sustain early childhood efforts statewide.

Learn more about First Things First at

One thing you learn when implementing a thorough plan like ours is that even though the initial implementation is underway, you constantly need to take your work to the next level and raise the bar to ensure you do not become complacent. We knew that we still had more to do to meet our goals and advance the system. ACS had the right skills to help us find solutions to our existing and anticipated challenges.”

Michelle Katona

Chief Program Officer, First Things First