A Legacy for Aging New Yorkers: The Congregational Home Legacy Fund at Brooklyn Community Foundation (Part I)
Among the many philanthropic tools we provide at Brooklyn Community Foundation, we are proud to offer the Donor Advised Fund (DAF), which can take on various forms depending on the donor’s resources and charitable goals. One unique iteration of the DAF is the Endowed Field of Interest Fund, which has a designated area of charitable interest and is structured to serve as a permanent source of support for this cause. We spoke with Kendall Christiansen and Tom Bettridge, two of the advisors of one such fund at the Foundation, to tell us about the origins of their fund.
In this first of our two-part conversation, Kendall and Tom share how they came to partner with Brooklyn Community Foundation to administer the Congregational Home Legacy Fund, why they chose to open an Endowed Field of Interest Fund, and the work and issue areas they are interested in exploring through the fund.
Kendall, Tom, and fellow fund advisor Michael Sharp were long-time members of the Board of Directors at the century-old New York Congregational Nursing Center (NYCNC), a nonprofit skilled nursing home in Brooklyn, located at the border of the Flatbush and Prospect Lefferts Gardens neighborhoods. In June 2021, NYCNC was sold to an operator of a network of such facilities, with the proceeds from the sale creating the Legacy Fund—named after the original New York Congregational Home for the Aged—to honor and continue the original charitable purpose of the Center’s assets.
Read Part II of our conversation here.
Pictured: New York Congregational Nursing Center, ca. 1930s. Photo courtesy of Kendall Christiansen.
Tell us about the origins of your fund.
Kendall & Tom: We began a few years ago to think seriously about the future of the New York Congregational Nursing Center—after one hundred years, it had become unsustainable to operate as an independent facility—and we were uncertain as to whether its sale would yield significant proceeds.
But after we tested the market, it became clear that we would generate sufficient funds to consider some philanthropic options which could be used as a legacy in line with the original purpose of the Congregational Home—to contribute to the welfare of the aging population of New York City.
The board members were committed to using the funds in that manner, and so we worked with a consultant to advise us on the sale and the available philanthropic options, both structurally and programmatically. Knowing those options kept us focused on achieving the best possible outcome from the sale, even as the COVID-19 pandemic intervened to change market conditions and affect the sale negotiations.
Why partner with Brooklyn Community Foundation?
Kendall & Tom: We had prior experience with foundations, especially community foundations, and knew something about the complexity of attempting to create a private foundation with a relatively modest resource. That baseline knowledge about how they function, the services they provide, and the important role they can play helped as we began discussions with Brooklyn Community Foundation.
We were particularly impressed with Brooklyn Community Foundation’s approach and focus, which aligned with ours. As it turned out, in the period since we began discussions with the Foundation, it launched the Brooklyn Elders Fund, giving us a first-hand look at how it operates. We were also very impressed with Brooklyn Community Foundation’s response during the pandemic, proactively and aggressively supporting community organizations during this difficult period.
Our choice to work with Brooklyn Community Foundation lets us focus on the good work we hope to do, without being encumbered by the legal and administrative burdens, which the Foundation will handle. The added benefit is engaging with knowledgeable and committed colleagues with whom we can share information and insights, ideas and connections, and possible collaboration.
Why open an Endowed Field of Interest Fund, specifically?
Kendall: We could have put the assets into a field of interest fund, or another fund, and walked away from it—or just left one foot in. But we do have a continuing interest in this important field—the needs of the city’s growing older adult population—and wanted to use the endowed Donor Advised Fund as the vehicle through which to stay engaged in that field, and to contribute to it. We’re looking to use our collective experience and interest to guide the areas in which we choose to invest. Aging is a broad, expansive field, with lots of interesting and provocative work going on. And we're hoping to learn more and to begin to become partners with others in exploring how we can be helpful and make a difference.
Tom: We all have histories in working on issues of social justice and environmental justice—from the realms of finance, legal, and community engagement—and we all want to keep being involved in that work from those various perspectives.
What are some of the immediate priorities for your Fund?
Kendall & Tom: The last two years kept us intensely focused on both dealing with the severe and tragic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and pushing forward on completing a successful sale. We are just beginning to shift our attention to considering how to use the Legacy Fund for useful, and perhaps provocative ways—understanding the complex array of organizations that focus on the needs of older adults, and finding both existing initiatives to amplify and gaps to be filled. For example, we expect to take a close look at initiatives that cross between sectors, where we can be a helpful connector or where we can act as a catalyst.