Hey Overlooked, Start-Ups: The David Rockefeller Fund Wants to Support You

The Rockefeller name is most frequently associated with high-profile grants to big-name institutions and plenty of fanfare. But the foundation of one particular Rockefeller is more interested in helping out the little guythose small, overlooked, and start-up nonprofits that make other funders wary. 

The David Rockefeller Fund has a new leader, Lukas Haynes, who envisions his job as seeking out these types of nonprofits and helping them build momentum to become something great.

"We can serve as a talent scout and a first-mover," Haynes said.

Haynes has an interesting background for an executive director. He previously worked as a speech writer for former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. More recently, Haynes served as vice president of the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, a $100 million New York City-based grantmaker that focuses on underserved New York City communities and climate change.

The Rockefeller Fund board has been looking for a leader who can recognize innovative ideas in the early stages and move swiftly to act upon them. Haynes is known as the type of guy who can strategically cherry pick less-prominent issues that need support and bring them to other donors’ attention.

The fund’s chairman, Michael Quattrone, has described the David Rockefeller Fund as being smaller and more nimble than the other larger Rockefeller philanthropies, which puts it in a unique position. The fund gives out about $1.5 million in grants each year, but the prominent name behind this $1.5 million is what really matters in the big picture.

So in that regard, it seems that Haynes is just the director to lead this charge. The Mertz Gilmore Foundation is even smaller in size and assets, however, Haynes used that foundation’s resources to inspire other donors to kick inthereby leveraging the original grant. That same strategy makes even more sense here, in the case of a big name funder that gives out small grants. And it sounds like Haynes is just the guy who'll recognize how much juice nonprofits can get by saying "Well, David Rockerfeller's foundation is on board." 

Now that Haynes has taken the reins, the David Rockefeller Fund has just become a little more attractive to new and overlooked grantseekers in New York City. But the downside is that Haynes and his crew still aren’t accepting unsolicited proposals for its programs and, as I said, overall grantmaking is modest. Current fund priorities are the arts, environment, community, and criminal justice.

To learn more, Read IP’s Profile of David Rockefeller Fund’s New York Grants and the programs section of the fund website.