Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: The Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation has a nationwide reach with its environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, and reproductive rights grantmaking. However, it has a funding program specifically dedicated to building an environmentally sustainable New York City. Around five of these grants are awarded locally each year at about $20,000 each.

FUNDING AREAS: Environmental justice, sustainable agriculture and food systems, reproductive rights, and an environmentally sustainable New York City

IP TAKE: JSNF doesn't give many grants for its local environmental justice work, but these funds can make a big difference to smaller groups engaged in these fights.

PROFILE: Based in New York City, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation funds grassroots organizations aimed at improving environmental, economic, social, and political conditions. JSNF is known as a nationwide funder of both urban and rural communities; however, it has a New York City funding focus that’s worth mentioning too. NYC grants are made for citywide organizations and activities in all five boroughs.

Charles F. Noyes established the foundation in 1947 as a tribute to his wife. After he moved from Connecticut to New York City, he worked in real estate brokerage and established his own firm, which eventually dominated the real estate market in Lower Manhattan. The foundation’s beginnings were in scholarships and loans for students to attend college and professional school. In the 1970s and 1980s, the foundation’s focus shifted to grantmaking in the areas of environment, health care, and public school education.

Today, the current grantmaking priorities are environmental justice, sustainable agriculture and food systems, reproductive rights, and an environmentally sustainable New York City. The foundation has been a long-time supporter of the organic food movement, as well as programs to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and end poverty through local food economies.

To bring nonprofits to maximum effectiveness, JSNF favors general operating grants over any other type of funding and doesn’t put a cap on renewals. The target demographics for populations that grantees serve are low-income communities and people of color.

These are the three goals of JSNF’s Sustainable New York City program:

  • Organize and advocate for public policies that promote sustainable practices and protect the city’s environment and the health of its residents.
  • Develop broad and effective coalitions and networks to integrate and advance social, economic and ecological justice.
  • Demand accountability from public agencies and officials and increased responsiveness to environmental concerns.

JSNF typically makes fewer Sustainable New York City grants than in other funding categories, but still manages to support some local causes each year. In a recent year, the foundation gave Brandworkers in Long Island City $20,000 for general support to protect and advance the rights of New York City's food processing and distribution workers through leadership development and workplace justice campaigns. The foundation also gave $20,000 to Restaurant Opportunities of New York for general support for organizing, education and advocacy to improve conditions for restaurant workers, and grow the sustainable food movement.

JSNF made around four to six New York sustainability grants in recent years. These grants tend to be in the $10,000 to $20,000 range. At the end of a recent year, the foundation reported over $52 million in assets and over $1.7 million in total giving.

This is the list of activities that the foundation does not fund: endowments, capital construction, deficit financing, scholarships, fellowships, loans, grants to individuals, television and media programming, international efforts, service delivery programs, and NARAL Pro-Choice America or Planned Parenthood affiliates. 

The grant application process is all online and the first steps are to complete a funding quiz and create an account. The staff and board make a point to meet with applicants either at grantees’ locations or in New York City.

Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca announced his retirement as president of the Noyes Foundation in early 2015 after 25 years of service. Here you can view the current board of directors.

General questions can be directed to the staff at 212-684-6577 or noyes@noyes.org. Inquiries about Sustainable New York City grantmaking can be directed to Program Director Wilma Montañez. You can learn more about the personalities and perspectives of the foundation staff by browsing through The Staff Speaks! section of the foundation website.

PEOPLE:

  • Wilma Montañez, Program Director for Reproductive Rights
  • Kolu Zigbi, Program Director for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems and EAT4Health

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