Crain's New York: Brooklyn Community Foundation goes hyper-local

After six months of borough-wide discussions with residents and local leaders, The Brooklyn Community Foundation on Thursday announced a new plan to refocus and refine its grant-making activity in Brooklyn.

The five-year-old foundation with a $60 million endowment will launch a few initiatives in 2015. The largest one—Invest in Youth—will focus on making grants to organizations that increase opportunities for young people through programs targeting juvenile justice, immigrant families and leadership and development. The Focus on Neighborhood initiative will work with local leaders to decide what a community needs to strengthen itself. The Foundation will create an awards program to recognize excellence at local organizations. And it will start an accelerator program to connect nonprofits with donors and help startups.

Currently, the foundation makes grants to a wide variety of nonprofits that are active in diverse issues in Brooklyn. However, the board felt that its broad approach made it difficult to figure out if its grants were having a real impact, according to the foundation's president and chief executive, Cecilia Clarke.

"It was hard to know if we were really moving any needles," said Ms. Clarke, who joined the foundation a little more than a year ago. She said the change in leader became a catalyst for exploring the foundation's mission.

"We didn't just want to just change. We wanted to change in a way where we had an impact," she said.

For example, she said that a lack of affordable housing is a huge problem in Brooklyn but that she didn't think a foundation the size of hers could make a dent in the issue. 

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