Brooklyn Nonprofit CEO Leads With Kindness

Jocelynne Rainey has family roots in the Caribbean island of Jamaica, on her father’s side. She maintains a strong connection to her heritage through cooking. She grew up in Brooklyn, and she still lives there today.

Her parents got divorced when she was young, thus a lot of her childhood was unstable. However, she still had lots of people in her life who looked out for her and her family.

For Rainey, kindness came in many forms during this time. “I remember having friends that made sure I was safe and protected and didn’t make the wrong moves. We moved a lot so people took me under their wing to include me in the community of people. We even had a short bout of homelessness, and my friend’s family took us in,” she said.

These acts of kindness in her youth helped shape Rainey’s passions in life, teaching her that kindness and compassion is important. “Giving back has always been important to me because I myself have been in that position of needing support,” she added.

She came into her new role last year, as the president and CEO of the Brooklyn Community Foundation (BCF), with over two decades of experience working in the nonprofit sector.

While working as the executive vice president and chief administrative officer for the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation (BNYDC), she had the opportunity to lead work she  was not only professionally interested in but also personally passionate about.

“I was able to work with and support communities in Brooklyn where I live and grew up and I was able to create opportunities and programming that impacted communities of color,” she continued.

She then realized the importance of her personal and professional passions intertwining. As a result, it made her realize she wanted to lead an organization focused on racial justice.

“The Foundation was the perfect fit for this, with a majority of our grants given to leaders of color and our participatory grant making model where the community with lived experience decides where the funding should go,” she stated. “Every leader and every CEO that has founded a nonprofit — it all started with acts of kindness, a vision of what could be for the people you desire to serve.”

Additionally, she emphasized nonprofit leaders need to have “an understanding of what a community needs, crystalizing the vision with the community and then creating organizations that can support that community.”

Rainey sees kindness at BCF in various ways including supporting immigrants, equalizing opportunities for women of color in STEM fields, providing fresh produce to community members, caring for children, and supporting LGBTQ+ people.

Besides grantmaking, Rainey stated Brooklyn nonprofits are being supported in other ways. She thinks this mission was being met long before she came into this role, but BCF is now at a point of being able to expand and do even more.

“We’re also creating opportunities for nonprofits that are not yet grantees to be able to get support and to raise their platform as well,” she stated.

According to Rainey, one of the biggest successes BCF has had thus far would be the listening tours.

“Getting out there and listening to communities, and then incorporating those conversations into the work we do — there’s nothing like it. These tours make for more robust grantmaking and ensure that we are there for our community when these members need it most,” she said.

Furthermore, Rainey said there needs to be continuous thinking about the challenge of making sure nonprofits get the funding they deserve in a timely manner, in order to serve their respective communities.  She states this can be done by “casting a wider net and supporting nonprofits of all sizes in their critical efforts.”

Rainey wishes more people knew: “the Foundation is incredibly poised to be able to connect to community-based organizations.” The majority of the team is also from Brooklyn.

“There are so many nonprofits that we are uniquely positioned to support and serve, and we are able to do so because of our focus on the community’s needs. We are always listening, thinking, and responding to the voices in our community.” continued Rainey.

“We are unapologetically doing this work for Brooklyn, which is important considering that Brooklyn is home to 30 percent of nonprofits in the city, but its share of philanthropic giving is only 7.6 percent. Brooklyn Community Foundation is here to change that statistic,” she added.

BCF is currently wrapping up its strategic plan, which it’s really excited to share broadly.

According to Rainey, BCF is going through a process of rebranding which “will help refine an understanding of who we are and why we exist. Those are two huge pieces of work we are doing now to help our Brooklyn neighbors, so that people and organizations really see us as a resource.”


Interested people can find more information on BCF’s 2023 Listening Tours here:

Those interested in supporting BCF can donate here:

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