A Letter from Our President

February 4, 2016

Dear Friend,

First, thank you. With your partnership and support, Brooklyn Community Foundation has made significant progress over the past year. 

After gathering and analyzing input from nearly 1,000 participants in our 2014 Brooklyn Insights project, we created a new vision, mission, and strategy that resonates not only in our neighborhoods but around our nation. We’re targeting the most critical issues of our time, from immigration and criminal justice reform to the future of our youth. 

This approach—to lead and learn by putting the voices of our community at the forefront—made waves among our foundation peers, garnering us the prestigious 2015 Impact Award from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. It also helped inspire our generous donors to give over $1 million to our Community Fund last year. 

Now it’s full steam ahead. The launch of three core focus areas—Youth, Neighborhoods, and Nonprofits—and the distribution of more than $4.2 million in grants in 2015 has laid the groundwork for even bolder steps in the year to come.

Here’s a look back, and a look ahead.

YOUTH

Invest in Youth is our most ambitious initiative to date because we believe investing in young people is the key to reversing the growing inequality weighing heavily on our communities. In 2015, we awarded grants to over 70 youth-serving organizations—the beginning of a 10-year investment in Brooklyn’s future. 

As part of Invest in Youth, we led on the critical issue of youth justice reform. We learned that across Brooklyn suspensions and in-school arrests overwhelmingly involve students of color and those with special needs. We also learned that in school districts around the country restorative justice practices have offered highly effective alternatives to punitive discipline, enabling students to learn from their mistakes in a supportive environment, while also dramatically improving school culture and academic outcomes.

So in 2015, in partnership with the Mayor and the New York City Department of Education, we created the Brooklyn Restorative Justice Project, a 4-year, $1.6 million commitment to developing a strong model for school discipline. Last fall we made substantial grants to launch programs in four Brooklyn schools. In 2016, we’ll deploy new funds to study the Project’s impact and to ensure its success, deepen understanding of restorative practices, and boost our advocacy for broader policy change. 

NEIGHBORHOODS

Neighborhood Strength advances the leadership of residents and creates powerful partnerships within communities. We created this program in direct response to our findings from Brooklyn Insights about the destabilizing effects of gentrification on vulnerable neighborhoods. We chose to start this work in Crown Heights, where our office is based. It’s a neighborhood with a rich cultural and civic history that’s now struggling with rapid development and displacement. 

Last winter, we brought together a diverse group of religious leaders, business owners, activists, and youth to design our first resident-led grantmaking program. Through cooperation and determination, they distributed $100,000 locally, selecting from over 50 competitive projects. 

As we enhance our efforts in Crown Heights, we’ll also begin expanding this exciting philanthropic model in one additional neighborhood, spending the coming year forming new relationships and learning from those who know their community best. 

NONPROFITS

Brooklyn Accelerator is fast becoming the go-to resource for Brooklyn nonprofits. Our borough boasts 3,000 organizations, but receives a mere 4% of New York City’s philanthropic dollars. To build collective capacity, we’re bringing together nonprofits and donors in much-needed new ways—last year’s sold-out Racial Justice and Board Matching programs were just the start.

When designing our Crown Heights headquarters, we created a space to host a cohort of start-up nonprofits. With BeMore America, Domestic Workers United, and The Precedential Group (pictured above), our Incubator Project provides 360-degree support tailored to the needs of emerging organizations. And the “incubatees” have already shown outstanding early success: In 2015, Ebony magazine featured Precedential founder Marlon Peterson on its “Power 100 List of Black Heroes” and Former President George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light honored BeMore at its national service conference. 

In 2016, we’re launching a brand new Accelerator endeavor: a large-scale awards program to spotlight and support Brooklyn’s stellar nonprofits. We plan to engage donors, residents, and local leaders to help us make major investments in organizations that lift up our communities. 

YOU

Of course, none of this would be possible without partners like you. Just as contributions to our Community Fund have increased, so have our donors’ own creative approaches to building philanthropy with their families and for our borough. 

Our Donor Advised Fund program has grown 300% in the last two years. In 2015, we issued $1.8 million in donor directed grants—nearly 80% of which went to Brooklyn nonprofits. More than $200,000 came from ALLINBKLYN, a women’s philanthropic initiative started at the Foundation by a longtime Brooklynite. With almost 50 members, this group is proof that one donor’s desire to build community around local giving can flourish and have a huge impact.

We truly believe Brooklyn Community Foundation serves a unique and invaluable role in the borough, and we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you.

Sincerely, 

Cecilia Clarke
President & CEO