David Rockefeller Fund: New York Grants

OVERVIEW: The David Rockefeller Fund was established by David Rockefeller and his wife Peggy in 1989. While Rockefeller is a billionaire, the foundation's assets and annual grantmaking are modest. 

FUNDING AREAS: Arts, Criminal Justice, Environment

IP TAKE: The fund's average grant size isn't overwhelming, but it has given steadily to many New York City institutions, particularly in arts and the environment. The fund has also given sums of money in the form of emergency grants, such as support for victims of Superstorm Sandy. 

PROFILE: The David Rockefeller Fund describes itself as a "small foundation committed to tackling big issues." Indeed, grants rarely exceed $100,000 but a steady stream of money has flown to a wide variety of New York City outfits.

The fund was established in 1989 by David Rockefeller and his wife Peggy. David's grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, famously cofounded the Standard Oil Company. Rockefeller spent much of his career working at Chase National Bank, where he eventually became chairman and CEO. He retired in 1981. Apart from the David Rockefeller Fund, there are several other philanthropic vehicles under the Rockefeller name and Rockefeller has been active in philanthropy for decades.

In New York, the fund has been focused on arts, criminal justice and the environment. The fund's arts philanthropy has been more modest, but steady. The Bronx Museum received $25,000 in 2013, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music recently received $50,000 over two years. The Laundromat Project, which serves at-risk neighborhoods in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Harlem by bringing arts programming to laundromats, has also been steadily supported by the fund. Sums have also gone to Fund for Public Schools to support a summer arts program. 

Harlem's Schomburg Center, a youth chorus project fostered by the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City and Queens Museum of Art have also seen funding in the past.

The fund has been quite interested in social justice in New York. Outfits such as Advocates for Children of New York, Center for Court Innovation, Youth Represent have received support, generally under $50,000 annually. Funding has also gone to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice's prisoner reentry institute in Queens. In a past year, John Jay received $100,000 from the fund.

The fund's environmental giving in New York City also has often had a social justice twist. For instance, Added Value, an outfit that supports promotes the sustainable development of Red Hook in Brooklyn, has received support. In addition, a grant to Center for Working Families supported a green jobs initiative. Meanwhile, $15,000 went to Green Guerillas to support a "Harvest for Neighborhoods Campaign." Green Guerillas describes itself as a "community-based organization that provides targeted services to 300 community garden groups in New York City."

To see an updated list of grants made by the David Rockefeller Fund, check out the individual program pages for arts, criminal justice, and environment on the foundation website.

The fund has also been known to give out emergency grants, and recently supported the victims of Superstorm Sandy. Outside of New York City, funds have supported a number of different outfits in suburban Westchester County, and further upstate in rural Columbia County, close to Albany. 

Lukas Haynes has recently taken over the position of executive director from Marnie Pillsbury, a long-time philanthropic to David Rockefeller who also has sat on the boards of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Haynes has expressed a strong desire to support small, overlooked, and start-up nonprofits. "We can serve as a talent scout and a first-mover," he says.


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