What's the Latest from NYCT? Early Literacy and Islamophobia Among Other Issues

As we’ve said many times in the past, the New York Community Trust (NYCT) is the local funder to follow if you want to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the city. NYCT just announced its new set of grants, which make up the biggest funding cycle yet this year. Eighty nonprofits are sharing a pool of $11 million to tackle a wide variety of projects, which is typical for this well-versed funder.

However, two completely unrelated issues really stood out from this new round of grantmaking, which we just couldn’t help but point out: early literacy and Islamophobia.

Over $3.8 million of the total $11 million awarded in this cycle went towards early literacy causes. This has been a huge issue all over the country this year, especially in the American Southwest and Southeast. New Yorkers may live in a much more urban environment than these regions, but it doesn’t mean they’re any less worried about the quality of their early childhood programs. In fact, New Yorkers are very concerned about their youngest residents too, and NYCT is responding to this need.

A huge $1.3 million grant just went to a New York University program to help teachers use storytelling and data to improve early reading skills. And a $439,000 grant went to a Union Settlement Association program that encourages students learning English to take photos and then discuss what they see through reading and writing. These are just a few of the innovative approaches that New York nonprofits are trying to set kids up to do well in school when they get older.

The other really interesting funding priority that has emerged from this grant cycle is the battle against Islamophobia. A quick reminder about the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Paris should make it obvious why the cause is so relevant. However, not many funders, in New York City or elsewhere, have thrown themselves behind keeping Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians living in the U.S. safe from hate crimes and undue retaliation.  

NYCT has stepped forward and taken the lead in this arena of funding by supporting eight groups with grants to highlight the contributions and voices of Islamic Americans and prevent anti-Islam bullying. These eight new NYCT grantees are sharing $550,000, but this is about much more than just money. This support is a statement of global solidarity and a bold move in the realm of community foundation grantmaking. Given New York City’s history with terrorism, the foundation’s commitment is even more significant.

The largest of these grants ($90,000) is going to the Arab American Association of New York, which is using the money to connect Muslim leaders and groups in New York City to respond to anti-Islamic rhetoric and stereotyping. Other grants are going to the Asian American Writer’s Workshop, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, and South Asian Youth Action.

Not only do the recent NYCT grants cover the five boroughs, but a few reach beyond the city’s borders as well. In addition to the two prominent causes that we highlighted here, NYCT’s recent grants also address the needs of the elderly in New York, strengthening small arts groups, environmental conservation, school discipline reform, workforce development, and other issues.

The issues most in need of funding in New York City seem to change on an almost daily basis, but it’s always fascinating to see where they shift from one cycle to the next. The next application deadline coming up is October 14, for which you can expect a decision from the board on or before April 14, 2017.