Who’s Leading the Way in Childhood Bereavement Funding and Why?

Childhood bereavement isn’t a funding topic that gets a whole lot of attention among major foundations and donors, but one group in New York continues to make it a big priority. The New York Life Foundation (NYLF) just made a major grantmaking milestone in support of childhood bereavement, passing the $25 million mark for supporting grieving children and their families.

Childhood bereavement has been a big part of NYLF’s grantmaking efforts for about eight years now, and it’s the largest corporate funder in this space. Through strategic funding, the foundation aims to ease the burden of grief for children through bereavement camps, recreational groups, tragedy assistance programs, and university research. According to recent statistics, nearly one in 20 children will lose a parent before they turn 16. Many children suffer in silence, which can lead to emotional and psychological issues that carry on well into adulthood.

The grant that pushed NYLF over this milestone was a $3 million commitment to the Boys and Girls Club of America. This grant will fund training and technical support to help the organization’s staff assist grieving youth. Other recent funding has provided direct support to childhood bereavement centers and programs across the U.S. through a program called Grief Reach, which has pushed out at least 153 capacity building and community expansion grants.

“Despite its prevalence and poignancy, childhood bereavement is still considered a ‘niche’ funding area,” Heather Nesle, president of the New York Life Foundation, said in a press release. “As one of the largest national corporate funders of childhood bereavement, New York Life is actively working to increase capacity in the field by building communication and collaboration among grantees and helping to raise national awareness of the issue.”

Since children spend such a large percentage of their time in the classroom, there’s a tremendous need for educator training in K-12 schools. NYLF has addressed this need along with the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement to create the Coalition to Support Grieving Students and put together resources for teachers and other school leaders. The funder has also supported childhood bereavement efforts at Scholastic, Sesame Street, Comfort Zone Camp, Outward Bound USA, and St. John’s University. This is a big part of the corporation’s employee volunteerism efforts, as well.

These are a few of the resources that NYLF has helped develop for grieving children:

  • Grievingstudents.org: An industry-endorsed bereavement resource tailored to educators and school communities, providing guidance on how to deliver better support to grieving students. This site was developed by the Coalition to Support Grieving Students, a groundbreaking collaboration led by New York Life and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, comprising ten of the leading professional organizations representing K-12 teachers, principals, school administrators, and student support personnel.
  • AChildInGriefTo provide better support for grieving children and their families, the foundation created this dedicated resource that aims to provide critical insight and resources to parents, educators and the broader community. The site also includes a National Bereavement Resource Guide to help children and their families locate local bereavement centers, camps and general resources.
  • The Shared Grief Project: A new site that seeks to change the narrative around grief by showcasing the stories of prominent figures who lost a parent or sibling as children themselves and have gone on to enjoy healthy, happy, and highly successful lives. The project includes personal perspective from a range of prominent athletes and celebrities and offers reflection guides to help parents and other caring adults encourage conversations with children on grief and loss.

In mid-January, the foundation announced $1.25 in new grants to 42 bereavement organizations that serve children all across the U.S. A few grants were awarded in New York in that round, but also extended to cities and states in all parts of the country.

“New York Life’s support of the issue extends across our whole organization. Helping families deal with the death of a loved one—both financially and emotionally—is at the heart of what New York Life does,” said Maria Collins, vice president of the New York Life Foundation. “As a result, we have been able to embody our commitment to grieving children from the top down.”

Whether you’re working in the field of childhood bereavement or something else youth-related, the NYLF is definitely a funder to watch in 2016. The foundation’s budget has grown steadily since 2004, and stands at about $18 million now. It has provided over $216 million in funding since its founding in 1979 and is ultimately focused on youth. Past areas of funding have included after-school programs, hunger, homelessness, disaster, relief, and the environment.

Aside from childhood bereavement, the foundation’s other big priority today is helping middle school students enter high school. Community impact grants are typically between $5,000 and $25,000 and go to nonprofits that operate in the areas that New York Life agents and filed managers are involved. Recent grantees can be viewed on the foundation website. Unfortunately for grantseekers, applications are accepted by invitation only, but you can get in touch with the foundation by emailing nylfoundation@newyorklife.com or calling the staff at 212-576-7341.