Zegar Family Foundation: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: The Zegar Family Foundation awards several dozen grants each year, ranging from $1,000 to $1 million each, in a broad range of program areas. Although Zegar grantmaking isn’t limited to a particular geographic region, a sizeable portion of grants have been going to local organizations in New York City.

FUNDING AREAS: Science & medicine, economic opportunity & human services, education, nutrition & health, arts and culture, international, conservation, international

IP TAKE: Although the Zegar Family Foundation accepts grant proposals by invitation only, you’re welcome to send Charles and Merryl Zegar an email with an innovative program idea. But be patient, because this family foundation does not employ any staff members to field your inquiries.

PROFILE: The Zegar Family Foundation was established in 2007 with a broad range of priorities; however, local giving has been strong in recent years. The man behind this philanthropy is Charles Zegar, a computer science billionaire who co-founded Bloomberg L.P. (Read our Wall Street Donor Profile of Charles Zegar).

At the end of a recent year, the foundation reported over $136 million in assets and $5.2 million in total giving. Both giving and assets have been steadily rising each year. According to Forbes, Charles has been worth an estimated $1.77 billion. The Zegar Family Foundation awarded 59 grants in 2012, ranging between $1,000 and $1 million each.

Past New York City grants includes $5,000 to the African Medical & Research Foundation, Inc., $17,000 to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and $100,000 to the Trevor Day School. Zegar also kicked in to help fund Synchronicity Fine Arts, The Anne Frank Center, and the Mayor's Fnd to Advance New York City. Some of the largest local awards were $1.3 million to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and $1 million to New York University, where Charles earned his Master’s in computer science.

The foundation awards grants in an incredibly broad range of program areas, with the goal of enhancing communities around it. A sizable portion of grants for economic opportunity, education, health, conservation, and arts & culture stay within the New York metropolitan area. However, Zegar also has a grant category for international causes that provide economic relief, medical assistance, and human rights support to developing areas and compelling global causes.

Based on information available from the foundation website and recent tax forms, the Zegar Family Foundation employs no staff, and only Charles and his wife, Merryl, serve as trustees. Charles and Merryl have signed The Giving Pledge as well. Charles made his millions writing the software for the financial data company, Bloomberg L.P. He previously had worked with co-founders Michael Bloomberg, Thomas Secunda and Duncan MacMillan at the Salomon Brothers investment bank. Charles serves on the Board of Trustees for New York University and is the Vice President of UnitedHealth Group. He resigned from the board of The Little Orchestra Society after many years of service in 2011.

Charles, who was widowed young, married Merryl as his second wife in 2001 when he was 53 years old and she was a 49-year-old divorcee. At that time, Merryl was an administrative law judge and heard cases for the New York City Finance Department’s Parking Violations Bureau. She graduated from the University of Connecticut and earned her J.D. from Fordham. Merryl’s late father was an independent business consultant in Connecticut and her mother was a second grade public school teacher. Even as Bloomberg L.P. has done better and better, the Zegar couple has maintained a low profile. And any children from their first marriages keep an even lower profile than their parents.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, the Zegar Family Foundation does not accept unsolicited grant proposals. However, the foundation is willing to listen to new ideas from unaffiliated nonprofits. Reach out to the staff at info@zegarff.org with an innovative program idea or general inquiries about the grantmaking process.


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