OVERVIEW: The Brooklyn Community Foundation was established in 2009 and conducted a borough-wide study to determine the area's greatest needs. The foundation’s biggest priority is youth of color in Brooklyn, and it plans to support this demographic through funding for racial justice, juvenile justice, community development, and immigrant initiatives.
FUNDING AREAS: Youth, Crown Heights neighborhood, racial justice, immigrant communities, juvenile justice.
IP TAKE: This is a relatively new funder and it's been working hard to figure out how to have maximum impact. Youth (ages 16-24) and Crown Heights have been top priorities.
PROFILE: Although the Brooklyn Community Foundation (BCF) was only founded in 2009, it has already provided well over $20 million in grants to more than 300 nonprofits in Brooklyn. There are around 20 community foundations throughout the state of New York with assets totaling $2.9 billion. However, BCF is the first and only public foundation that’s solely dedicated to the charitable community in Brooklyn. With a $60 million endowment, BCF operates through a Community Fund, Donor Advised Fund Program, and strategic initiatives.
Six months and a thousand conversations later, BCF released the findings of its community engagement project.The Brooklyn Insights Report revealed startling economic inequality statistics, including a 10 percent rise in homelessness over the past year, a 35 percent poverty rate for children in Brooklyn, and the fact that 95 percent of youth in juvenile detention facilities are black and Latino. Real estate development and gentrification are a way of life in Brooklyn, and BCF aims to support poverty-stricken young people who are particularly vulnerable at this time.
“To be truly effective, we knew we needed to go into neighborhoods, sit down with residents and leaders, and hear about their experiences and insights,” explained BCF President and CEO, Cecilia Clarke. “We wanted to construct a fresh approach to supporting community-led change, led by the ideas and expertise of those who live here and work here.”
Since launching Brooklyn Insights in January 2014, the foundation has had five primary grantmaking themes: Neighborhood Cohesion, Youth, Criminal Justice, Immigrant Communities, and Racial Justice
Through the Brooklyn’s Best initiative, the foundation has made operating grants to groups and leaders identified by their peers for exemplary programs and unique contributions. Crown Heights, where BCF is located, is the current neighborhood in focus. It’s been described as “ground zero for rapid gentrification,” and it’s also a persistently problematic area for the borough’s youth. Using its new office space there, the foundation will use its Brooklyn Accelerator initiative to connect donors and board members to local nonprofits, sponsor capacity-building efforts and provide technical assistance.
And through it all, the foundation will continually educate itself about racial justice issues to break equal opportunity barriers for people of color in Brooklyn. Current financial data can be viewed here. In the past, many grants have been between $10,000 and $150,000. In recent years, the foundation established a community grant program to support innovative efforts on food, open space, and fitness in three neighborhoods with high concentrations of public housing developments: Red Hook, Fort Greene, and Brownsville.
A couple years ago, there was a shift in leadership at the foundation as Marilyn Gelber left her post as foundation president and Cecilia Clarke took over. BCF is the former Independence Community Foundation, which was a private foundation with a broader focus.
“The foundation belongs to Brooklyn, rather than a private foundation, a wealthy individual or a corporation,” Gelber said about the foundation’s biggest accomplishment. “Creating this foundation for Brooklyn is accomplishment number one.”
Cecilia Clark, who now serves as BCF’s President and CEO, shared that youth causes will be at the heart of the foundation’s overall grantmaking strategy. “Above all, we have learned that our youth are the cornerstone of Brooklyn’s future and to this end we will be engaging young people as experts and leaders in propelling the Foundation’s vision,” she said.
To keep up with recent happenings at the Brooklyn Community Foundation and be among the first to hear about the new grant program launches, follow the foundation on social media or fill out the online contact form with general questions.
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