Robin Hood Foundation: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: The Robin Hood Foundation is solely dedicated to the most prominent needs of New York City. The foundation is a major philanthropic player in the city, and grants are very competitive.

FUNDING AREAS: Disaster relief, veterans, poverty, teacher training, libraries, health, youth, employment

IP TAKE: Since the Robin Hood Foundation awards so many grants each year, most of them are not overwhelmingly large, so don't depend on it for your sole source of funding. If you're running a start-up organization, you do have a chance with Robin Hood. While it prefers to fund organizations with proven track records of success, it also regularly funds new, promising organizations to give them an initial boost.

PROFILE: True, the Robin Hood Foundation’s name became a bit more recognizable after the 12-12-12 Concert for Hurricane Sandy Relief, a foundation-sponsored, nationally televised event that featured numerous celebrity musicians. Robin Hood raised more than $70 million to benefit Tri-State families affected by that storm. But their hurricane relief efforts were just the tip of the giving iceberg.

For the last 25 years, the foundation has followed a straightforward mission: to stamp out poverty in New York City, and they use a unique approach. Their board underwrites all administrative and fundraising costs, so that 100 percent of donations go directly to poverty-fighting organizations. In a recent year, Robin Hood invested over $75 million in grants and had over $391 million in assets.

Of course, tackling a problem as complex as poverty in New York City takes a balanced approach, and the foundation typically makes grants in four areas: Education, Jobs and Economic Security, Early Childhood and Youth, and Survival. Robin Hood also works with the “most effective” organizations, and potential grantees that can show their effectiveness or are willing to measure success are more likely to earn funding.

In addition to the program funding areas, these are some past Robin Hood initiatives: 

  • Sandy Relief Fund
  • Veterans
  • Single Stop
  • Asthma Initiative
  • Poverty Tracker
  • Teacher Training
  • L!brary
  • 9/11 Relief Fund
  • Unplugged Conversations

The foundation has been around since 1988 and has been solely devoted to New York City since the beginning. A few recent grantees include A.I.R. Harlem, Advocates for Children, the Affordable Housing Alliance, Asian Americans for Equality, and the BronxWorks job training program. Robin Hood provides management assistance as well, in case your nonprofit could use a letter help with accounting, marketing, data management, real estate planning, or operational improvements.

As a foundation created by hedge fund billionaire, Paul Tudor Jones, Robin Hood sticks up for Wall Street. Some of the biggest names on Wall Street, like Steven Cohen, Daniel Och, and David Einhorn, sit upon Robin Hood's board of directors. The foundation's Wall Street connections helped it roll out relief funds during Hurricane Sandy, in particular. Undoubtedly, Hurricane Sandy was a big time for the foundation. After the foundation organized an all-star concert to help victims of the storm, the television online streaming feeds raised over $50 million for the foundation.

The good news for funders is that Robin Hood is accessible. But it’s important to remember that their grants are extremely competitive. Each year, the foundation chooses about 200 grantees, and in New York, there’s more than 20,000 poverty-fighting organizations. For first-time grantees, awards range from $100,000 to $200,000. In 2014, the foundaiton invested $181 million in poverty-fighting programs.

Education proposals should enhance performance and leadership, whether they be for public, private, or parochial elementary schools or high schools in the city. Economic security proposals should help people with employment barriers like substance abuse, incarceration, or homelessness get jobs. Robin Hood makes early childhood programs a priority in the city, especially ones that help kids with speech, language, and learning difficulties. And finally, survival proposals should tackle basic needs issues, like hunger and health, by helping low-income families become self-reliant and economically secure.

More information about their year-round application process is available online. Like many foundations, you must wait a full year before reapplying for funding if your proposal is denied. Robin Hood strongly discourages grantseekers from dropping in on them in their New York office, so be patient and wait for a staff member to respond to your proposal. A convenient application form is provided on the foundation's website and you can direct general inquiries to the staff at grants@robinhood.org.

PEOPLE:

  • Michael M. Weinstein, Chief Program Officer 
  • Pam Davis, Jobs & Economic Security Senior Program Officer
  • Kimberly Smith, Jobs & Economic Security Senior Program Officer
  • Patricia Priolet, Education Senior Program Officer
  • Kwaku Driskell, Early Childhood & Youth Senior Program Officer
  • Veyom Bahl, Managing Director, Survival 

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