NYCT Has Been a Leader on Funder Collaboratives for Decades. What's It Learned?

The New York Community Trust (NYCT) likes the proverb,“"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." For 40 years, this locally focused funder has been supporting collaborative funds to tackle issues that are just too much for anyone to go at alone.

While multi-funder collaborations may still not be so common in some places, we see a lot of them in New York City, and NYCT is one reason why. 

"Donor collaboration is on the rise because it meets many needs. By joining forces, funders leverage the resources of many to tackle larger agendas, tougher issues or long-term challenges," Lorie Slutsky, president of the New York Community Trust has said. "Collaboration also provides philanthropists with an opportunity to get involved in areas in which they are not experts or take risks they might not assume on their own."

Over the years, NYCT has been home to over 20 collaborative funds and distributed more than $119 million through them. The largest of these was the September 11th Fund, which brought in $534 million from two million people from all 50 states and 150 countries.

As a leading expert in this type of philanthropy, NYCT released a report not long ago called “Stronger Together: The Power of Funder Collaboration." This is one of a number of reports on funder collaboratives that have crossed our desk over the past few years. But what's unique here is that NYCT has been involved with collaboratives for so long, across such a variety of different issue areas, and with many types of funders. We took a look at this report and picked out a few key insights that seem worth sharing.

  • Good relationships with city government is a must
  • Collaborative funds are often the first responders when crises arise
  • No single funder should dominate the collaboration
  • Without a defined and agreeable path, collaborations will fail
  • City and state-specific funds tend to work best

Current collaborative funds at NYCT that grantseekers should be aware of are as follows:

  • HIVE Digital Media Learning Fund (new ways to learn with digital media)
  • The Fund for New Citizens (NYC immigrants)
  • The New York City Workforce Development Fund (local job seekers)
  • Donors’ Education Collaborative (local public education reform)
  • New York City Cultural Agenda Fund (cultural advocacy, policy, and equity)

Each of these collaborative funds has its own story, and some of those stories have been pretty impressive so far. Through HIVE, seven funders have collaborated to give $7.2 million since 2010, but 2017 will be this fund’s last year. Some 21 funders have come together for NYCT’s workforce development fund and awarded over $8.8 million in grants. The immigration fund is comprised of 33 funders to support the 3 million immigrants living in NYC with over $20.5 million in grants. Meanwhile, the Donor’s Education Collaborative has 29 funder members and has awarded over $16.8 million to 40 grantees. The NYC Cultural Agenda Fund was just created in 2014 and has given out $351,680 in grants to date.

It’s a good idea to check out NYCT’s requests for proposals page occasionally to see if any of these funds are accepting new inquiries. At the time this was written, there were no open RFPs listed on the funder’s site; however, we’re expecting to see some open up this fall.