While New York Community Trust Mostly Delivers on Equity Goals, Its Donors Overlook NYC’s Grassroots Nonprofits

The Trust also needs to boost support of community organizing groups led by people of color

Washington, D.C. (4/13/2016) – The New York Community Trust is committed to investing in underserved communities and equity, and mostly follows through on those goals to achieve results, a new report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy’s Philamplify initiative found. The Trust is the third-largest community foundation in the U.S.

The foundation’s grantmaking and initiatives have helped bring about systemic changes that benefit New York City’s marginalized communities, according to the report, New York Community Trust: How Can This Equity Funder Rally Donors and Deepen Grassroots Engagement to Further Its Impact? Trust grantee achievements include a commitment from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove minors from adult prisons and the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2011.

“The New York Community Trust very clearly seeks to advance equity and address the systems that perpetuate injustice. In many ways, the foundation has been successful,” said Lisa Ranghelli, NCRP’s director of foundation assessment, in this blog post. Ranghelli authored the report with NCRP Project Associate Caitlin Duffy.

However, the Trust’s grantmaking doesn’t fully reflect the diversity of New York City, and its donor-advised funds frequently direct grants to large, established New York City institutions, the authors said.


Learning from Constituents

In a formal statement, Trust President Lorie Slutsky welcomed the positive findings of the report and noted that the foundation has already addressed some of the recommendations from the assessment based on previous external and internal reviews.

She also disagreed with some findings and recommendations, particularly regarding its donor-advised funds and its approach to leadership, and considered NCRP’s approach as too universal for the foundation’s mission and constituency.

Ranghelli noted that the findings and recommendations are based on feedback from the New York Community Trust’s constituents such as grantees, peers, collaborators and other nonprofit leaders from across the city.

“The assessment is not about what NCRP wants the Trust to do,” said Ranghelli. “It’s the Trust’s own community providing ideas so the foundation can better serve a diverse city facing very critical needs.”


How much funding goes to underserved communities?

A Philamplify survey of nonprofits that received competitive grants found that 68 percent of respondents served economically disadvantaged populations, 60 percent served communities of color, 13 percent served people with disabilities and 9 percent served LGBTQ citizens. Overall, 84 percent of respondents said the Trust’s goals and strategies are likely to result in greater equity for marginalized communities.

However, outside of its education program, Ranghelli and Duffy found that from 2012-2014, the community foundation infrequently supported neighborhood-based groups and those led by or directly organizing people of color, which make up the majority of New York City’s population.

“The sheer size of the Trust’s assets and giving translates into potential to leverage dollars for impact that’s unrivaled by smaller local funders that provide higher proportions of their funding for these strategies,” the report says.

Ranghelli and Duffy recommend that the Trust increase funding and capacity building for grassroots organizations, building on its existing efforts.

For example, its Cultural Agenda Fund explicitly addresses equity in the arts by bringing government arts agencies together with arts advocates and local arts funders to develop new relationships. It is also a member of the Fund for New Citizens, a foundation collaborative that supports capacity building for immigrant organizations.

The authors also urge the Trust to use its influence more often to champion policies that promote the interests of New York’s underserved communities.


Trust’s Donor-Advised Funds support major NYC institutions

The Trust acknowledged that although its donor base has grown more diverse in recent years, it still doesn’t reflect the overall diversity of the city.

“We have more diverse donors, but the kind of diversity that reflects my city? Not even close. If we work another 100 years, it would be way better but I don’t think we’ll ever be as diverse as the city we’re trying to serve,” Slutsky said in the report.

The report also found that the Trust’s donor advisors often direct grants to large, established institutions. Ranghelli and Duffy’s analysis concluded that collectively the Trust’s donor-advised and -designated funds made grants totaling less than $100,000 to community organizing groups in 2012-14, while these funds’ 10 largest grants in that period totaled more than $37 million to major institutions. The funds’ top 10 grants in the 2012-14 period included donations to four colleges and universities, the New York Public Library, New York Botanical Garden, St. Mary’s Foundation for Children, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Sesame Workshop and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Beyond its creative use of bequests to address equity and current community needs, the report recommends that the Trust enhance its donor engagement activities to better connect donors to communities of color and the nonprofits that serve those communities, including other grantmaking charities.


Other recommendations to boost impact

The report also recommends the Trust increase its multi-year funding and make strategic general operating support grants. This will enable smaller nonprofits to be more flexible regarding community needs and new opportunities while freeing up program officers’ time to engage and convene grantees.

Furthermore, the Trust needs to adopt an explicit unifying vision and improve its communication about how the vision and values align with its goals and strategies.

“What is the Trust’s larger vision for New York City? Many of its stakeholders are wondering,” writes Ranghelli in the blog post. “A clear and compelling vision could help rally donors, other grantmakers, nonprofits and members of the community around common goals to boost equitable outcomes for New York City residents.”

New York Community Trust: How Can This Equity Funder Rally Donors and Deepen Grassroots Engagement to Further Its Impact? is the 10th assessment released by NCRP’s Philamplify initiative, which aims to maximize the impact of philanthropy by providing funders with unvarnished feedback from grantees and other stakeholders. The full report is available for free on philamplify.org.



Since 1976, NCRP has served as the voice of nonprofits and the communities they serve in philanthropy. Through research and advocacy, NCRP works to ensure that philanthropy contributes in meaningful ways to the creation of a fair, just and equitable world. Visit www.ncrp.org for more information.

For questions or to schedule an interview with the authors, please contact Yna C. Moore at ymoore[at]ncrp.org or (202) 557-1381.