How the Brooklyn Community Foundation is Revamping Its Grant Strategy

The Brooklyn Community Foundation has long been committed to putting residents’ voices at the forefront of their work, but a new program is taking that commitment to a whole new level.

The Brooklyn Community Foundation developed a program called Brooklyn Insights to bring residents, advocates, entrepreneurs, and leaders together to discuss the pressing needs of Brooklyn communities, opportunities for change, and strategies for collective action. Between January and June 2014, the foundation hosted issue-specific roundtables, meetings with local leaders, and neighborhood dialogues to collect diverse community views on how to facilitate effective grantmaking.

Community leader roundtables generally consist of 8 to 10 participants involving over 300 Brooklyn leaders, employers, activists, and entrepreneurs. Neighborhood dialogues have been conducted through one-on-one meetings and meetings of 15-20 residents, and they’ve been focused in the neighborhoods of East New York, Coney Island/Brighton Beach, Sunset Park, and Williamsburg/Greenpoint. You can watch and listen to the stories behind these viewpoints on the Brooklyn Insights website.

On June 5th, the Brooklyn Community Foundation welcomed Tynesha McHarris as its new Director of Community Leadership. Prior to stepping into this role, she helped to develop the Brooklyn Insights program for six months. McHarris is a native of the Bronx, and she’s earned national praise for her work for the Newark Education Trust, Children's Defense Fund, and Sadie Nash Leadership Project in Newark, New Jersey. Her mandate is to develop the foundation's community empowerment and grantmaking strategies, as well as spearhead major initiatives and projects. On a side note, she’s currently a subject of an HBO documentary that features young women activists, Another Night in the Free World.

To act upon the conclusions drawn from all these meetings, BCF is working with a small group of diverse, expert stakeholders to refine a new strategic approach to supporting community-led solutions. In the spirit of transparency, we’re expecting to see a report prepared by Helicon Collaborative, a Brooklyn-based philanthropic strategy consultancy that is assisting with the project. As a separate but related side project, BCF is selecting up to 10 Brooklyn high school students to serve as “Community Engagement Fellows” and help facilitate the whole process, thereby training the next generation of local foundation leaders.

According to BCF Director of Communications Liane Stegmaier, the foundation’s staff and board of directors will be finalizing their new strategy in September 2014. We’ll check in with her again in a couple months to gain new insights about the direction of Brooklyn Community Foundation grantmaking.