How Does Community Grantmaking in Connecticut Play Out?

 Stamford, CT. photo: Ritu Manoj Jethani/shutterstock

Stamford, CT. photo: Ritu Manoj Jethani/shutterstock

Despite its modest population of just over 3.5 million people, the state of Connecticut has a long-standing tradition of philanthropy and no shortage of local wealthy donors. Lots of giving power in the state is harnessed by community foundations, such as the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, which supports 20 towns in Central Connecticut, and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which supports 29 towns around the city of Hartford.

Giving in Connecticut is often about bringing local communities together and more about regions than individual cities. These two community funders address the needs of dozens of towns in specified regions and have a lot of influence on the state's philanthropy scene. Another community funder worth mentioning is the Fairfield Community Foundation (FCCF), which usually comes in about third place for total community foundation giving each year.

Like some other funders in this region, FCCF is the result of mergers among various other smaller funders that decided to combine their collective impact for greater results. FCCF was formed in 1992 when the Five Town, Stamford, Greenwich, and Danbury foundations merged with the Fairfield County Foundation, which was actually part of the New York Community Trust. Then in 2008, the Greater Bridgeport Area Foundation got in on this mix and merged with the others as well, leading to adoption of the name FCCF uses today.

To get a better sense of how FCCF encompasses all of these regions with its grantmaking, let's take a look at how its most recent grant cycle played out. A total of 83 area nonprofits are splitting over $1.8 million dollars from this round of giving, and grants were focused in three areas. The bulk of grants lately have gone to the funder’s economic security initiative and towards homelessness prevention. Grants totaling $888,750 in this category went to groups like Open Door Shelter and Operation Hope of Fairfield.

Nearly as large of a priority lately is an initiative called Thrive by Age 25, which is all about setting up young adults with paid internships as a means of career pathways. A total of $872,350 in grants was awarded in this category to groups like the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program in Stamford and the Mill River Park Collaborative.

Last, but certainly not least, is FCCF’s commitment to women and girls. This community foundation is actually home to the largest women’s fund in New England, and $126,850 in small grants was awarded to groups that focus on the unique needs of local females in the most recent round of giving. Five organizations received $20,000 grants for their work with women and girls, including All Our Kin and the Women’s Business Development Council.

Also, in recent news, FCCF raised over $1.4 million for 415 nonprofits in Fairfield Giving as part of its annual giving day. Giving Day has been a part of FCCF’s strategy since 2014, and it has raised almost $6 million since that time. This is also a funder that has spoken out in support youth advocacy and the civil rights of young students regarding gun violence in recent weeks.

Since it was established, FCCF has awarded over $212 million in grants to nonprofits in the Fairfield County region. 

The Connecticut Council for Philanthropy is a good resource for keeping up with statewide funding trends and local nonprofit events.