Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation: Grants for New York City

OVERVIEW: The Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation is the philanthropic arm of its namesake law firm, and is committed to supporting education in the inner-city communities in which the firm has a presence.

IP TAKE: This foundation acknowledges that its biggest grant amounts are earmarked for their V.I.P.s—calling them Relationship Grants, and more or less distributing them to the same players year-to-year. But it is also refreshingly flexible when it comes to its smaller Community Grants, awarding up to $2,000 per classroom for a wide variety of learning and participatory projects. New York City is one of its targeted locations, and while not its top geographic priority, it still gets a high percentage of dollars, particularly through the Community Grants funding stream.

PROFILE: The Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Brown Rudnick LLC, an international law firm focused on business law, with headquarters in Boston, with additional U.S. offices in Hartford, New York City, Orange County, CA, Providence, and Washington, DC.

That list is important, because those are the only places the Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation will grant funds. And while New York City isn't #1 in this funder's book (that mantle goes to Boston), New York City still sees plenty of grants.

These funds are all in the realm of education, with K-12 education at the forefront (but also with clear support of early childhood education) across an impressively wide range of subject areas, needs and types of activities. This support of education flows through the foundation's commitment to creating positive social change by supporting inner-city education. It does this through both its Relationship Grants and Community Grants programs.

Relationship Grants is an apt name for the foundation’s larger (in amounts given) program. Through this program the Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation not only gives funds, but also provides employee volunteer hours and pro bono legal services—a relationship deeper than a one-shot cash infusion. The term “relationship” can also refer to the fact that virtually all of the grantees under this umbrella are multi-year recipients. In a recent year, cohort, only two of the 11 grant recipients were first-time grantees; five of the recipients had received annual awards five or more times.

Relationship Grants are more often awarded to 501(c)(3)s than directly to school districts or individual schools. A recent New York City grantee in this category is the New York City Urban Debate League, which received $45,000 to expand its programming city-wide.

Despite the entrenched relationships built into these Relationship Grants, the Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation does have an open LOI process for them, with applications due in March.

But if your education project is based in a classroom, your needs are for a one-time specific program, and you can make use of a modest amount, the Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation’s Community Grants are the way to go. The foundation’s tagline here is “Front Line Focus,” which encapsulates where and how these smaller amounts ($2,000 maximum) should be directed. The foundation adds:

Although the amount of these grants may seem modest, we have found that the connections that they foster, the activities they encourage and the energy they create, have the potential to unleash countless contributions to improving inner-city education in the communities where we live and work.

Grants given through this program can either be directed by a school or classroom teacher, or otherwise by a 501(c)(3) partnering with a school to “recognize, encourage, and collaborate with the front-line workers within the educational system who often do not have a voice in funding decisions.” The projects also need to be “concrete.”

The Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation has shown that it’s very open as to the breadth of subjects and activities it will support—as well as how those funds will be used—so long as it’s a classroom-driven, one-time project (rather than ongoing programming).

New York City grantees reflect the diversity of what this foundation will support. Awardees include:

  • I.S. 166-George Gershwin School (New York, NY) to purchase an interactive Smartboard for use in a special education classroom
  • Urban Institute of Mathematics (New York, NY) to paint old classrooms
  • P.S. 32-Samuel Mills Sprole School (Brooklyn, NY) for a school and community garden project
  • P.S. 335-Granville T. Woods (New York, NY) for a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the White House and other historic sites
  • I.S. 61-Leonardo Davinci (New York, NY) for a trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty while studying immigration
  • P.S. 193-The Gil Hodges Elementary School (Brooklyn, NY) to send students to see a New York City Opera performance
  • P.S. 168 (New York, NY) to purchase multi-sensory learning materials for K-2 South Bronx students.

    The Community Grants program is an online open application, with considerations made monthly.