How Will Funder Collaborations Shape the New York Foundation’s Grant Strategy?

Funder collaborations are nothing new, but as political administrations promise more transparency and the income gap between rich and poor continues to widen, they’re becoming more common. Last month, the Neighborhood Funders Group, a funders affinity group, hosted a dual-city, two-day learning tour called “From Boston to New York: Is a More Just City Possible?”

Nearly 100 grantmakers, nonprofit leaders, public officials, and community residents attended the event, which focused its agenda on urban transportation, affordable housing, and land use. One program director shared his takeaways from the event, offering some insights about where East Coast grantmaking may be headed in the months ahead.

Kevin Ryan, Program Director for the New York Foundation, came away with a keener appreciation of how gentrification of city neighborhoods is displacing cultural groups and resulting in a loss of ethnic heritage. Community organizations that attended the event also emphasized how important arts and cultural events are to promoting social change. Although the arts are thriving in New York City, these types of programs are often undervalued for their roles in engaging and strengthening neighborhoods.

Nonprofit groups that spoke at the “Is a More Just City Possible?” tour suggested that grantmakers need to be more patient because developing and implementing programs often takes far longer than the typical one-to-three years funding commitment. Community nonprofit leaders also suggested that more grants are needed to provide technical support. Many nonprofits struggle to find enough training resources for complicated tech processes that could be effective if people knew how to use them.  

Learning tours enable grantmakers to return to their offices with a renewed sense of purpose and focus. Kevin Ryan leads a small staff at the New York Foundation, which focuses on community-initiated solutions to solve local problems. Last year, the foundation approved $3 million in grants to high-risk community groups, advocacy groups, and grassroots organizations. NYF reviewed 244 proposals and selected 108 grantees in 2013. Unlike many other foundations in the city, NYF doesn’t shy away from new programs and untested organizations. Of those 108 grants, 19 were startup grants to new and untested groups, 26 were new project grants to established groups, and eight were general support grants for new and transitional programs.

If Ryan applies what he learned at this recent funder collaboration, we expect to see a few more grants for technical support from NYF in 2014. The foundation made only one technical assistance grant in 2013. We would also expect to see a few more arts and culture grants in 2014. Most of last year’s grantees were civil/human rights and social action organizations, which could use arts and culture programs to push their agendas. General support and project grants are currently made for up to three years, and start-up group grants are made for up to five years. So it seems that NYF is already ahead of the game in giving nonprofits the time they need to pull it all together.

To learn more about applying for a NYF grant, check out the Grant Guidelines page and submit an initial funding request by mail. Submission deadlines are March 1, July 1, and November 1, and the average NYF grant is $45,000.