North Star Fund: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: The North Star Fund awards activist-led grants, rapid response grants, and donor-advised grants in New York City. The Fund pools the resources and expertise of New Yorkers to support local organizations that promise to improve schools, housing conditions, health care, access to jobs, civil liberties, peace, freedom, and human rights.

FUNDING AREAS: Environment, education, scholarships, disaster relief, social justice

IP TAKE: North Star is unabashedly progressive, and it's a great foundation for startup and low-budget social change nonprofits in New York City. 

PROFILE: The North Star Fund is a community foundation in New York City that supports grassroots groups that are leading the movement for equality, economic justice and peace. This foundation organizes donors, raises money for grants and provides technical assistance in a wide range of program areas. Since the fund was established in 1979, North Star has awarded over $42 million to 1,775 New York groups working to improve equality and democracy in the city.

In an effort to get New Yorkers from all socioeconomic backgrounds and income levels involved in local philanthropy, the North Star Fund hosts networking events, seminars and workshops through its donor program. The fund provides donor-advised services for other family foundations, corporate giving entities, and individuals too. The goal of North Star’s grants program is to provide technical assistance to new talent and grassroots groups to fight injustice and promote democracy.

North Star doesn't give big money, but it operates in a realm where small money can go a long way. It divides grantmaking into three separate categories: activist-led grants, rapid response grants, and donor-advised grants. Under the Activist-Led Grant umbrella, Grassroots Action grants are between $5,000 and $10,000 and support new and small groups with annual budgets less than $35,000.

Movement leadership grants are $25,000 for two years and awarded to organizations with budgets under $800,000. North Star looks for groups and projects with direct connections to community organizing campaigns when awarding Innovative Activism Grants, which focus on arts that influence social justice issues, organizational development, and facility infrastructure. Innovative Activism Grants are between $5,000 and $10,000 and are awarded to organizations with budgets under $800,000.

For the most urgent issues, Rapid Response Grants are awarded for up to $5,000 for immediate actions and up to $15,000 for short-term strategic capacity building. Organizations can apply for a rapid response grant at any time, however, all other grant applications have deadlines in the spring and fall cycles.

A significant portion of the North Star Fund’s grantmaking comes in the form of technical assistance. The Fund also collaborates with other local foundations (including the New York Foundation and the Stonewall Community Foundation) to provide workshops in grassroots fundraising, board development, volunteer management, and working with media.

With $7.9 million, North Star established the Greening Western Queens Fund in 2009 to invest in energy-efficiency and environmental projects in the Western Queens community affected by an electrical power outage. Twenty-three projects received funding through this program through one- to three-year grants for environmental education, tree planting, and recycling programs. Disaster response is a common grantmaking focus for this foundation, which also contributed $397,400 to Hurricane Sandy relief in New York city, Long Island, and New Jersey. Donor-advised grants are also made through the NYC Venture Philanthropy Fund, which you can read more about in our NYC Venture Philanthropy Fund: New York City Grants profile.

Check out North Star's Grant Categories page for up-to-date guidelines per category. 

This grantmaker only supports organizations working in the five boroughs of New York City. There are two grant cycles each year, one around February 15th and the other around September 15th. You can download a grant application directly from North Star’s website, and the fund often hosts “How to Apply” workshops a couple weeks before the deadlines. General questions can be directed to the staff at 212-620-9110 or


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