Heckscher Foundation for Children: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: The Heckscher Foundation funds child-based grants in a variety of program areas, always with an eye to what's going on in New York City. Although it is run by a small staff, the foundation is accessible for grantseekers.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, family services, child welfare, health, arts, and recreation

IP TAKE: This foundation takes the guesswork out of grant applications. To be considered for a grant, make sure your program fits within its bullet-pointed focus areas. For instance, don't even bother pitching a program for artistic performances, higher education, or general hospital support.

PROFILE: While the Heckscher Foundation for Children has been both successful and unsuccessful as economic times have evolved, it's always fixated on the children of New York City. Charles Heckscher stared the foundation in 1921 to promote the welfare of children in the United States, but most prominently in the city. When the Great Depression struck, the foundation nearly dissipated.

However, Heckscher's friend Arthur Smadbeck was able to save it. Heckscher had made his fortune in coal mining and transportation operations, and Smadbeck in suburban real estate. Smadbeck's wife, Ruth, was the one who kept the foundation going for more than 50 years by managing the multifaceted programs of orchestra, dance, exercise, photography, reading, swimming, and even a thrift shop.

Although all three of those noteworthy individuals have passed away, the Heckscher Foundation aims to level the playing field still today. It supports non-profit organizations that provide better access to educational opportunities and varied experiences that lead to richer lives for children. Although all Heckscher's grants are children-focused, the staff considers grant proposals for the distinct fields of education, family services, child welfare, health, arts, and recreation.

The foundation provides financial support for capacity building, general operations, specific programs, and special capital projects. However, it will not consider requests for endowments, fundraisers, annual appeals, or political causes. New York City organizations definitely have a leg up on the competition with this foundation, which has much more of a local than a global focus.

Some past local grants includes $1.2 million to the Central Park Conservatory for a street playground renovation, $500,000 to Success Charter Network for T School, $125,000 for summer camp opportunities at Provide an Edge, and $25,000 to the Public Theater for a Shakespeare initiative. Heckscher usually gives out 100 to 200 grants each year, ranging in size from $500 to $1 million.

You can read about recent strategic philanthropy project highlights here.

Check out the Recent Grants page to see where the most recent Heckscher funds have been going. Highlighted recent grants have gone to NPower’s workforce programs in Brooklyn and Harlem, which provide IT training and services to youth and young adults through the Technology Service Corps, New York public radio, and veterans causes for college access and readiness. At the end of a past year, the foundation reported $290,131,000 in assets. This was down from the previous year, which saw $304,058,317 in total assets. 

Heckscher, which has awarded millions of dollars in grant money to park organizations like the Central Park Conservatory, is generally against government interference in grantmaking. When legislation requiring well-funded parks to share grant money with poorer parks was proposed, Heckscher's chairman and chief executive, Peter Sloane, objected. “That would be a “violation of not just what we intended but what we are committed to doing,” he said. 

If you're planning to pitch an education proposal, you should focus your program on improving grades, SAT scores, graduation rates, and college admission rates. Your arts program proposal should demonstrate better school performance as a result of arts education, build literacy skills through the arts, and reduce problematic behaviors because of the arts. If your organization works in the social services arena, you're encouraged to pitch a proposal that boosts economic self-sufficiency and decreases the needs for your services at all. Health organizations are encouraged to submit proposals for plans to increase exercise, decrease alcohol and drug use, and improve nutrition among young people in New York City.

Heckscher only accepts grant applications online, and the process is very straightforward. If your organization is awarded a grant, you'll be required to file an interim report and a final report based on the logic model submitted in your initial application. Guidelines can be viewed here. The best way to get in touch with the foundation about general questions or application concerns is by calling directly at 212-744-0190.



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