A Farewell from Brooklyn Community Foundation President Marilyn Gelber

Dear Friends,

For the past 15 years I have had the privilege of working in the field of philanthropy, first as Executive Director of the Independence Community Foundation and then as founding President of its successor organization, the Brooklyn Community Foundation. It is with considerable sadness but with a real sense of pride and accomplishment that I am writing to you to share my thoughts before leaving this extraordinary institution at the end of June.

With the support and encouragement of so many of you, we have built an amazing and unique philanthropic organization, well respected for its credibility, integrity, effectiveness, and leadership within Brooklyn’s nonprofit and civic communities.

The Foundation has both witnessed and participated in the renaissance of the borough’s neighborhoods and institutions. First, from our storefront perch on Atlantic Avenue adjoining Independence Community Bank, we took note of the new stream of investments in residential and commercial developments. And now from our headquarters in DUMBO, we are immersed in a new community of entrepreneurs advancing the fields of technology, design, and media.

Today, in the “coolest city on the planet”, there is renewed interest in better schools, enhanced cultural opportunities, parks and open space. Across our borough, initiatives are sprouting to organize neighbors and improve quality of life block by block; meanwhile, around the world, headlines touting our singular attitude and style continue to draw more young people here each year.

Yet poverty and under-development still erode Brooklyn’s strength. In too many parts of Brooklyn the neighborhood infrastructure is fragile or seemingly nonexistent. Equally troubling, the notion of a “middle class”—people and families who are middle-income and secure in their future— is in real danger of becoming extinct.

Into this mix of prosperity and peril, we must continue to remember that Brooklyn was built on strong traditions. Its early wealth created our great public cultural, social, educational, and religious institutions, which endure and continue to impart a sense of fairness and a ready-willingness to help others.

Our idea—the first and only Foundation for Brooklyn—fuses this rich inheritance with a forward vision, to be a dynamic force for good. The Foundation aims to embolden Brooklyn’s agencies and institutions to confront our biggest challenges year-round, and to act nimbly and effectively in times of crisis, such as the Haitian earthquake in 2010, which had a ripple effect across central Brooklyn neighborhoods, or more recently after Superstorm Sandy ravaged our coastal communities.

We created the Brooklyn Community Foundation to bring focus, clarity, and old-fashioned common sense to charitable giving in Brooklyn. We wanted to ensure that the borough’s character, hewed by the great civic builders and patrons of another age, and burnished by generations of new and striving Americans, continues to hold promise and opportunity for all who live here.

We have seen far too many of Brooklyn’s outstanding nonprofits struggle to raise the money they need to create proper endowments, obtain adequate operating support, make necessary capital improvements, and expand their reach to more people in need. Despite strong leadership and sterling track records, these organizations have not been able to access an adequate share of philanthropic support.

Generosity begets generosity. I firmly believe that the Brooklyn Community Foundation, designed to be an inclusive, creative, and proactive philanthropy, can have a major impact on how, where, and why people give in Brooklyn. Together, we can make more good happen here.

The future of the Brooklyn Community Foundation, like the borough’s, is very bright. My successor will inherit a strong young organization with an outstanding staff, built on a solid financial base and poised to take advantage of the excitement and optimism flowing through Brooklyn.

Our motto is “Do Good Right Here” and I hope you will continue to show your love of Brooklyn through giving and service and by continuing to support your Brooklyn Community Foundation.


Marilyn Gelber