Lorie Slutsky, The New York Community Trust

TITLE: President

FUNDING AREAS: Children, youth, and families; community development and the environment; education, arts, and human justice; and health and people with special needs

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: Lorie Slutsky has been president of the New York Community Trust (NYCT) since way back in 1990 after beginning her career there 13 years earlier, in 1977. Back then, she was a grantmaker with responsibility for education, housing, government and urban affairs, and neighborhood revitalization. She was then executive vice president for three years before ascending to her current position.

Here's her full bio on NYCT's own website:

Lorie is the president of The Trust where she began her career in 1977 as a grantmaker. She was named executive vice president in 1987, when she assumed responsibility for strategic planning, personnel and budget management, and oversight of all departments. 

Lorie received her B.A. from Colgate University, where she served for nine years as a trustee and chairman of the budget committee, and her M.A. from The New School, where she also was as a trustee. She sits on the Chief Judge’s Permanent Commission to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York State. She was a member of the board of Independent Sector and co-chaired its Panel on the Nonprofit Sector. 

Lorie is a former board chairman of the Council on Foundations and BoardSource, and vice chairman of The Foundation Center. She also is a director of two for-profit companies: Alliance Bernstein Capital Management and AXA Equitable.

Deborah Thompson Velazquez, Altman Foundation

TITLE: Associate Director

FUNDING AREAS: Strengthening communities and youth development in New York City

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: The Altman Foundation's Deborah Thompson Velazquez has made a name for herself giving advice about philanthropy just about as much as working in philanthropy. In recent years, this senior program officer has spoken at many conferences, participated in targeted panel discussions, and offered a gold mine of advice to grantseeking non-profit organizations. An announcement about her promotion in Philanthropy New York shared: 

The Altman Foundation is pleased to announce that Deborah T. Velazquez has been appointed Associate Director of the Foundation.  Ms. Velazquez joined the Foundation in 2008 as Senior Program Officer.  

Ms. Velazquez’s core responsibilities include oversight of the Strengthening Communities area—which includes economic self-sufficiency, affordable housing, and parks and open space—and a number of investments that link youth development and the arts.  She also advances critical capacity building and systems change grants across multiple program areas and provides leadership in donor collaborative funds, including the NYC Workforce Development Fund; the Change Capital Fund; the New York Merger, Acquisition, and Collaborative Fund; and the New York Pooled PRI (program-related investment) Fund.  In her cross-cutting role as Senior Program Officer and now Associate Director, she also helps to facilitate the efforts of other program staff working in areas of the Arts, Education, and Health, and fosters the development of internal systems that improve the experience of Altman grantees and staff.  Executive Director Karen Rosa noted, “Deborah Velazquez is a strong leader whose calm and steady style is undergirded by a brilliant and dynamic mind that is also creative, warm, and completely committed to the issues at the heart of the Foundation.  We celebrate this well-deserved promotion.”

Prior to joining Altman, Ms. Velazquez served as a philanthropic consultant and held management roles within the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, MDRC, and Bridge Street Development Corporation. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the State University of New York at New Paltz and a Master of Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.   

Kwaku Driskell, Robin Hood Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer, Early Childhood & Youth

FUNDING AREAS: Poverty and early childhood education

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: Investing in early childhood and youth education programs is an important step in breaking the cycle of poverty, and it's one focus that the Robin Hood Foundation uses in its mission to end poverty in New York City.

Leading the foundation's efforts in early childhood and youth education is Senior Program Officer Kwaku Driskell, who first joined Robin Hood in October 2005. He's been in the thick of it with engagingly supporting youth for quite some time, starting as a YMCA camp administrator, moving on to the education departments of first the Chicago Children's Museum and then the Brooklyn Children's Museum, and finally three years as a Program Manager at Young Audiences New York just previous to joining with Robin Hood. He also has his bachelor's degree in communications from Northwestern University, and has worked as an actor in addition to his community and non-profit efforts.

Driskell has described how he visits program sites to observe grantees in action. He tries to gauge the hard-to-quantify aspects of programs: Is the atmosphere an inviting one? Is the program really engaging youth? What happens when a young person breaks the rules? He also noted that proven leadership sometimes induces Robin Hood to make riskier investments than it otherwise would.

Mary McCormick, Fund for the City of New York

TITLE: President

FUNDING AREAS: Technology, start-up businesses, and community development

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: McCormick's foundation bio shares:

Mary McCormick, President of the Fund for the City of New York (www.fcny.org), has long been recognized as a social entrepreneur, particularly skilled at adapting emerging technologies for the benefit of government, nonprofit agencies, communities and families.
The Fund for the City of New York was established by the Ford Foundation in 1968 with the mandate to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers. The Fund achieves this mission by being responsive to the issues of New York City and opportunities to improve the performance of its government and nonprofits. All of the Fund's accomplishments are the result of creative partnerships with foundations, government agencies, community-based organizations, the private sector and universities in New York.
Ms. McCormick is currently a member of the Mayor's Committee on Appointments and the Kings County Judicial Screening Commission for the Second District. She serves on the boards of the White House Project, the National Center for State Courts, the Robin Hood Foundation and the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. She was named by then Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg to chair his Transition Committee on Social Services in 2001 and was later appointed by him to the 2006 New York City Charter Revision Commission. Mayor Edward Koch appointed Ms. McCormick to the New York City Youth Board and the Commission on Four–Year Old Education. Ms. McCormick co-founded the Food Bank for New York City and served as Board Chair of Bargemusic. She received the Luther Gulick Award for Outstanding Leadership in Public Affairs in 1994 and the first national New Leadership Skills Award in 2004. In 2001, Fast Company magazine recognized Ms. McCormick for her pioneering use of technology to improve communities. She is an honors graduate of Radcliffe College and holds an M.A. from New York University and an M.B.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University.


Kerry McCarthy, The New York Community Trust

TITLE: Thriving Communities, Arts and Historic Preservation Program Director

FUNDING AREAS: Performing arts, classical arts, education, justice, and historic art preservation

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: McCarthy makes grants with two primary goals: First, to "help arts organizations attract broader audiences and provide opportunities for artists from diverse backgrounds." And second, to support landmark preservation projects in low-income and minority neighborhoods and restoration projects in places that "represent significant and overlooked aspects of New York City's history."

PROFILE: Beginning in 2009, Kerry McCarthy was a program officer for The New York Community Trust. And with more than 20 years' experience in museum and arts administration, McCarthy certainly knows her way around New York’s robust arts landscape. Today she serves as the program director for the Thriving Communities and Arts and Historic Preservation programs.

Previous to joining The Trust, McCarthy ran a consulting company serving New York City nonprofit arts organizations, as well as more than 20 years of experience in museum and performing arts administration with organizations spanning the Queens Museum of Art to Jim Henson Productions.

McCarthy received her bachelor's degree from Seanee: The University of the South. She then made the pilgrimage to NYC, receiving her master's in Folk Art Studies from New York University. She is also a graduate of Coro's Leadership New York Program.

The Trust—one of the largest private funders of NYC's nonprofits, making roughly $130 million in grants locally each year—has long been a supporter of the city's arts organizations. Currently, The Trust's arts program has a strong undertone of building equity in the arts and expanding arts access to diverse audiences.

For arts organizations in New York, The New York Community Trust funds projects aimed at underserved communities throughout the region. Specifically, grants are made to organizations that promote diversity and expand access, develop young artists from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds, and strengthen arts advocacy. The Trust has also a goal of improving arts education in public schools.

"The arts help people learn how to think critically and independently come up with ideas," McCarthy said in a statement. "They also help children develop problem-solving skills. But more important, the arts are an expression of our common humanity and our culture."

In December 2011, the foundation made nearly $500,000 available to eight arts organizations in NYC, with the hope that "[our] participation will foster commitment to reintegrating arts into the school curriculum." This commitment to arts education certainly plays a significant role in shaping the foundation's arts funding approach.

Another example of an arts education grant that highlights this approach came more recently when McCarthy made a $25,000 grant for Arts Horizon's ArtsBeat program, which sends teaching artists into four hospitals throughout New York City to work with special-needs young people ages 11 to 21. The ArtsBeat program addresses many of the foundation's arts goals, such as expanding access, providing educational opportunities, and working with underserved and younger arts audiences.

"We hope that this grant brings joy to a special community of young New Yorkers," McCarthy said at the time. "Arts programming has transformational powers and is a vitally important part of the healing process."

The foundation's arts program has also made a push to engage young people using 21st century technology. The Trust's Hive Digital Media Learning Fund supports organizations that use technology to educate young people. The fund provided more than $1 million in funding to several organizations. New York Grantmakers in the Arts—an organization McCarthy cochairs—wrote a great blog post about the program.

For arts funding, The Trust prioritizes midsize groups with operating budgets of more than $250,000, as well as ethnic groups that provide arts learning and other arts projects outside of Manhattan. The Trust also supports professional development opportunities for young artists from its Van Lier Fellowship Fund.

The Trust also provides financial support for historic preservation in low-income and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. Their preservation grantmaking is centered on projects that foster collaboration between preservation groups and neighboring communities.

The El Barrio Artspace is a recent example of a foundation preservation grant, which is a project to convert a 19th century school into a living and work space for 90 artists and their families. The Trust and McCarthy made a $50,000 grant to form a community advisory board for the project, and a second $50,000 was used to develop plans that would meet federal, state, and local requirements for low-income housing and historic preservation funding.

Interested grantseekers can find information online, including the foundation's current requests for proposals.

Patricia Swann, The New York Community Trust

TITLE: Senior Program Officer for Thriving Communities, Community Development & Technical Assistance

FUNDING AREAS: Community development, civic affairs, technical assistance

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: The success of the Community Development program's first year allowed it to continue funding for the project in 2013 and beyond, so it seems that Swann brings about successful and quantifiable results.

PROFILE: It's been said before, but diversity is boundless in New York City. Communities of different sizes, ethnicities, and income levels are held together by geographic boundaries, with each facing a unique set of challenges and hot-button issues. That's a challenge that Patricia (Pat) Swann faces.

As The New York Community Trust's senior program officer for community development, civic affairs, and technical assistance, Swann was responsible for understanding these unique community challenges and finding organizations that address them with innovative approaches. Today Swann serves as NYCT's Senior Program Officer for Thriving Communities, Community Development & Technical Assistance. The trust's goal: "to build and sustain strong communities and create economic opportunities for residents of low-income neighborhoods."

It's a tall order, and there's a large scope to the grants Swann makes. But in looking at her past grants— and in a broader perspective those of the entire trust—addressing issues in innovative ways plays a strong role in her grantmaking decisions.

For instance, an $80,000 grant from the trust went to Feet in Two Worlds, "a program started in 2005 at The New School Center for New York City Affairs to bring the marginalized voices of immigrants to their fellow New Yorkers." The program makes the work of immigrant journalists available on public radio and the web, and also provides them with training opportunities. In many ways, it's a truly 21st century project, embracing technology and social media to connect immigrants in New York and across the country.

"As a city of immigrants, we have prided ourselves for our ability to embrace newcomers from all over the world and the unique contributions they make to New York’s cultural, social, and economic life," Swann said in a statement in 2010. "We think that this project will contribute to increased conversations among the City’s residents and better understanding."

Swann also oversees civic affairs grants and technical assistance grants for nonprofits. One grant made recently to Community Voices Heard helped it to organize communities around participatory budget projects. Four City Council members gave a percentage of their capital funds to these participatory budget projects, and communities voted on how to allocate the funds. New York City is just the second city in the country trying it.

Recently, East Harlem residents decided how to spend nearly $2 million in their neighborhood, and in 2012 residents in participating districts decided how to spend $5.6 million. It's no surprise that these "revolutionary civics," as the trust has called them, are leading to increased interest and participation from residents, but it also highlights Swann's approach to grantmaking: innovation, innovation, innovation.

"This is what it's about: It’s about giving people the power," Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito told the New York Daily News about the most recent East Harlem funding round. "It's the community's needs. It's what people are saying they want. You can't say no to that, right?"

Swann also spoke to the Foundation Center in 2011 about funder collaboratives. Collaboration between funders and nonprofits has guided grantmaking in the past, and some grants are made this way now. Although there isn't a set number of collaboratives the trust makes, it's certainly something fundraisers might consider. "The best collaboratives that I've been a part of are those where grantees and funders alike become a community learners about an issue or problem," Swann said in the interview.

In addition her role at the trust, Swann also has also served on the advisory board of Brooklyn Workforce Innovations and the local office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. The trust's website also shares this about Swann's professional background:

Prior to The Trust, Pat directed economic development programs in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and worked for the Office of then-Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Pratt Institute’s Graduate School of Architecture and Planning. She is also a recipient of a Revson fellowship at Columbia University.