What Issues Have Been Catching the New York Community Trust’s Attention Lately?

With each passing grant cycle, it’s always interesting to see where NYCT’s funding ends up. The foundation is in tune with where the greatest needs are in NYC, and other donors often look to it for guidance and direction.

For the second quarter of 2016, the community funder supported 45 nonprofits working in the following areas: arts, community development, disabilities, education, the environment, and health & human services. The most recent round of grants topped $5.4 million, which is slightly more than in recent cycles. For example, the last quarter of 2015 saw $5.1 million in grants and another recent quarter saw $4.3 million.

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But back to the most recent round of new grantees. Which topics and nonprofits have been catching NYCT’s attention the most so far in 2016? A few big priorities stood out in NYCT’s list of new grantees, and a few themes emerged that we’d like to point out.

Pre-K Teacher Training

The very youngest New Yorkers are definitely on the minds of the NYCT board and staff. The city has a rapidly expanding pre-K program, which means that the need for high-quality pre-K teachers is greater than ever. The trust made a $500,000 grant to the Fund for Public Schools to train at least 2,000 of these teachers to make the most of these formative years. The big focus, here, is on bringing the arts into pre-K classrooms.

“Not all arts education is created equally,” Kerry McCarthy, the trust’s senior program officer for the arts, said in a press release. “But when skillfully taught, the arts can develop curiosity and persistence, and help children build vocabulary, social skills, and cognition.”

Specialized Job Assistance

Jobs in New York City are still a huge issue for the trust, especially in select fields. Eight grants were awarded to advance jobs and workforce development in the last NYCT grant cycle. All of these grants were between $50,000 and $140,000 in size and went towards programs like these:

  • Helping former inmates find jobs
  • Preparing New Yorkers for clean energy and construction jobs
  • Helping women expand small food companies
  • Teaching high schoolers coding and web development skills

Mental Health for Vulnerable Groups

Mental health has emerged as a big issue for funders in New York City. The trust made a large commitment of $400,000 to the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City for a program to improve mental health screenings and treatments for low-income residents.

The trust also pays attention to very specific populations that are particularly vulnerable to mental health concerns, such as aging LGBT individuals. For example, NYCT awarded a $100,000 grant to SAGE to train staff to screen, refer, and provide help during crises for elderly LGBT clients with mental health issues.

Immigration Legal Aid

Immigration issues are at the top of the list for this highly localized funder, which just awarded seven new immigration-related grants. In addition to competitive immigration grants, it also approved $350,000 in grants from the Fund for New Citizens. Top local funders, like the Altman Foundation and Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation, kick in money to this fund. Within the realm of immigration, the bulk of NYCT’s focus has been on legal aid lately.

"While many groups try to help immigrants become taxpayers and legal residents, we want to learn what kinds of legal aid really improve people’s daily lives," Shawn Morehead, the trust's senior program officer for education and human justice, said in a press release.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions & Pollution

NYCT recently awarded seven new conservation and environment grants, many of which have to do with reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution in the city and region. For example, the trust awarded a $100,000 grant to the Acadia Center to work with state agencies, power companies, and utilities on a regional initiative to limits greenhouse gas emissions in the Northeast.

Other environmental grants are going towards topics like these: 

  • Protecting wildlife and open space
  • Replacing outdated elevated highways with mixed-use surface streets
  • Supporting energy policy reforms that benefit poor communities by reducing pollution and promoting economic development.

In addition to these “big winner” categories, NYCT also awarded a few grants in the following fields:

  • Arts for autistic students
  • Care for the elderly
  • Jail alternatives for youth
  • Aid for foster youth
  • Affordable housing

Right now, NYCT’s open RFPs are as follows:

Remember that this funder accepts grant applications all throughout the year, so refresh your memory with NYCT’s grantmaking guidelines. The next date that the trust will be reviewing grants is May 6, for decisions made on or before December 16.