Where Does Surdna’s Funding Land in New York City?

photo: Kris Arnold,  CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

photo: Kris Arnold, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Surdna Foundation is nationally known as a progressive funder with an interest in making local economies work, advancing environmental sustainability, and supporting arts and culture. As we've described in the past, these priorities overlap and are knitted together by a vision of creating stronger and more equitable communities.


Surdna is based in New York City and it's still under the control of a family with longtime roots in the metropolitan region. So we got to wondering what kind of grants it makes close to home and what New York-area nonprofits should know about this funder.  

The best way to see where Surdna gives locally over recent years is to search its grant database for all grants made to New York State. It's a long list, although keep in mind that some of these grants are to national organizations that are based in New York. Here, we take a closer look at recent Surda support of local nonprofits. 

Strong Local Economies

Surdna’s “Strong Local Economies” program focuses on three topics: business development and acceleration, equitable economic development, and job quality with career pathways. However, this program stays away from affordable housing development, neighborhood-based asset building, homelessness and equipment purchases.

In the most recent giving cycle, the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at Baruch College received a grant to produce policy briefings related to employment, local business infrastructure, and poverty and inequity trends in New York City. Surdna also supported the New York Women’s Foundation, too, backing its New York City Fund for Girls and Young Women of Color. In addition, Surdna has been an important funder of the Coro New York Leadership Center, where a $75,000 grant earlier this year supported a public/private partnership with city government to that "develops the skills and networks of leaders who are improving New York City's commercial corridors and Business Improvement Districts with a focus on low- and moderate-income communities."

Sustainable Environments

This grantmaking category is all about overhauling outdated infrastructure and creating more sustainable local systems for transit, buildings, water, food and energy efficiency. This year, Surdna has given two grants to the New York Energy Democracy Alliance to support its efforts "to advance a just and participatory transition to a resilient, localized, and democratically controlled clean energy economy in New York State." It's also continued support for THE POINT Community Development Corporation for its work on the South Bronx Community Resiliency Agenda (SBCRA). According to the foundation, the SBCRA "seeks to build power among residents, stakeholders, business owners and decision makers while advancing a comprehensive community-led environmental and social resiliency plan."

Thriving Culture

The third Surdna program for which New York City groups have received grants in 2017 is “Thriving Culture.” The foundation often gives grants to groups that get teens involved in arts and culture movements. This year, Surdna has given grants to the Urban Word NYC and to the Brooklyn Arts Exchange for an initiative called Dancing While Black (DWB), "which will offer a fellowship for 14 artists, create a journal, and convene a series of dialogues, all of which will fortify the field of Black contemporary dance." It also gave a three-year grant this year to the Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy, an organization based in Brooklyn that seeks to promote knowledge of African culture for the healthy development of youth. Another group that received support is the Laundromat Project, based in Harlem, which seeks to "amplify the creativity that already exists within communities by using arts and culture to build community networks, solve problems, and enhance our sense of ownership in the places where we live, work, and grow."

The Surdna Foundation committed over $14 million in its most recent grant cycle. New York City groups only saw a modest portion of that, but it’s still worth noting where Surdna is giving. Additionally, Surdna's Flexible Grantmaking Fund recently awarded three grants, two of which were to New York City groups. Living Cities received $1.5 million for general operating support, and the Vera Institute of Justice received $105,000 to enhance legal representation services for immigrants facing deportation or detention.