What’s Behind the Starr Foundation’s $25 Million Nursing Home Gift?

It’s a bit difficult to assess the Starr Foundation’s grantmaking strategy since this New York-based funder generally stays out of the press and away from unsolicited requests for money. Starr makes local, national, and international grants by seeking out specific organizations to submit proposals for funding.

And while we know what Starr’s funding priorities are (education, medicine & healthcare, human needs, public policy, culture, and the environment), we usually only hear about a new grant once or twice a year (Read Starr Foundation: New York City Grants).

But with that said, when Starr gives, it gives big.

The Starr Foundation recently announced a $25 million gift to the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, a nursing home in the Bronx. And Starr’s 88-year-old chairman Maurice Greenberg has a personal connection with this particular nursing home. Greenburg’s mother lived at this Bronx nursing home for nine years and Greenberg visited her here regularly until her death in 1994.

Over the years, Greenberg has made several personal donations to the Hebrew Home at Riverdale to build a fitness center, wellness program, and a gazebo. His money also helped create a shelter at the home for victims of elder abuse and Alzheimer’s disease. He was always exceptionally impressed with the level of care his mother and other residents received and how the home catered to both wealthy and poor families. Regarding his giving, Greenberg said, "I don't do it to get compliments from other people. I do it because I think it's the right thing to do."

But according to the Wall Street Journal, this recent $25 million donation is not directly from Greenberg’s pocket. It’s a challenge gift from the Starr Foundation and part of a $100 million endowment campaign timed to Hebrew Home's centennial in 2017. Greenberg and his wife are some of the biggest philanthropists in New York City, but this particular $25 million came out of the Starr Foundation’s more than $1 billion in assets.

Starr’s Medicine and Healthcare program has traditionally been about the second-largest funding priority after education. Unlike other priority areas that have a national and international focus, this one is centered on New York City hospitals and research centers. In the past, most health grants have been capital grants to hospitals, significant medical research grants, and grants to provide healthcare to underserved communities in New York City.

The Starr Foundation has indicated that it plans to make more grants in the area of preventative healthcare over the next few years. As new Medicaid laws and budget cuts continue to put financial pressure elder care facilities around New York City, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more Starr funds going to care facilities in upcoming grant cycles.