Five Brooklyn Nonprofits Receive $100,000 Spark Prize

Today, Brooklyn Community Foundation announces the five organizations selected to receive its first annual Spark Prize, the only honor of its kind celebrating excellence and impact in Brooklyn’s thriving nonprofit sector.

Each of the five Spark Prize recipients will get $100,000 in general operating support from Brooklyn Community Foundation. The organizations were selected from a competitive pool of over 150 applicants by a distinguished committee of civic, business, and neighborhood leaders all hailing from Brooklyn. The Spark Prize Committee narrowed applications to 20 finalists, and then chose the five recipients following in person interviews with finalists. 

“As Brooklyn’s community foundation, we are thrilled to shine the spotlight on these five outstanding organizations that call Brooklyn home and have such remarkable track-records of building equity and strength in our communities,” said Brooklyn Community Foundation President and CEO Cecilia Clarke. “Just as Brooklyn is known around the world for its creativity and entrepreneurship, it’s also long been an exciting hub for inspiring and groundbreaking nonprofits. We hope that this Spark Prize is a resounding ‘seal of approval’ for organizations that embody Brooklyn’s ingenuity and leadership.”

Brooklyn is home to over 2,000 nonprofits, yet less than 5% of New York City’s charitable giving goes to organizations based in the borough. Brooklyn Community Foundation created the Spark Prize to drive support to its nonprofit sector and showcase local solutions to local challenges.

The five Spark Prize recipients are (alphabetically):

  • Audre Lorde Project: An inter-generational organizing center for LGBT people of color that promotes community wellness and progressive social and economic justice in New York City. Founded in Brooklyn in 1996, it works with over 8,000 members; its work includes creating safety models against police brutality and hate crimes, as well as training small businesses, community organizations, and neighborhood leaders on de-escalation and safety strategies.
  • Common Justice: A restorative justice program of the Vera Institute of Justice that works with responsible parties and those harmed by violent crime in Brooklyn. Founded in 2008, it is the first and only alternative to incarceration program for violent crimes in the adult courts in the United States. It works with 16 to 24-year-olds to address the criminal justice system’s over-reliance on incarceration, to halt cycles of violence, and to meet the needs of victims of crime. To date, fewer than 8% of its participants have been terminated from the program for committing a new crime.
  • Make the Road: An immigrant-led organization that develops grassroots leadership to mobilize Latino and working class communities. MRNY provides legal services, education, and employment access to achieve policy change and is dedicated to building community power and racial equity in Bushwick, where it was founded in 1997. It now has over 20,000 members and 200 staff working across New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
  • MoCADA: A “museum without walls” that serves the African Diasporan community through art exhibitions, education, and community programs to promote African diasporan art, racial equity, and social justice in Brooklyn. Founded in 1999, this year it is expanding from 2,000 sq. ft. to a new 20,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Fort Greene.
  • Neighbors Together: A dynamic soup kitchen, social service provider, and community center committed to ending hunger and poverty in Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and Bedford-Stuyvesant since 1982. It provides empowerment and community action programming to organize community members to advocate for policy change, in addition to serving 80,000 meals annually out of its community café.

The five organizations will be honored at a Spark Prize Celebration breakfast on Thursday, February 16, 2017 from 8-10AM, which will also pay tribute to Robert Catell, founding Board Member of Brooklyn Community Foundation and Former U.S. Chairman of National Grid, whose generosity and commitment to giving back has “sparked” change in Brooklyn and beyond.

In the first year of the Spark Prize, Brooklyn Community Foundation awarded over $600,000, including a $100,000 match on Giving Tuesday that helped raise over $271,000 for the 20 finalists in 24 hours.

The Spark Prize is presented by Brooklyn Community Foundation in partnership with the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and is sponsored by TD Bank, with support from National Grid and the Brooklyn Nets Foundation.

“I am extremely proud of our inaugural Spark Prize recipients,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “These incredible nonprofits are emblematic of the compassion, diversity, and tenacity that define Brooklynites. They work in the underserved corners of our borough, helping to ensure that the popularity of Brooklyn’s brand translates into prosperity for each and every one of our residents. Brooklyn Community Foundation is to be commended for ‘sparking’ a new wave of much-needed charitable giving to our locally-based organizations advancing social change from Coney Island to Cypress Hills.”

“We’d like to commend Brooklyn Community Foundation for supporting Brooklyn’s non-profit sector, and congratulate the outstanding organizations who have received the first annual Spark Prize,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Andrew Hoan. “We are thrilled the Foundation has also recognized the many contributions of Bob Catell, the ultimate Brooklynite, including his tireless work in the energy field and as a former chairman of the Brooklyn Chamber Board.”

"We are fortunate to have organizations in Brooklyn that make such a positive impact in our community," said Peter Meyer, Market President, TD Bank. "All of these recipients are exceptional, and TD is honored to celebrate their achievements through our support."

“National Grid is pleased to help lead Brooklyn Community Foundation’s effort to shine a spotlight on organizations that are committed to uplifting the Brooklyn communities that we jointly serve,” said National Grid for New York President Kenneth Daly. “We extend congratulations to the recipients on their commitment to making a lasting change in Brooklyn. We have been proud to provide the energy needs of Brooklyn for over a century and we support programs designed to help improve the way people live, work and play.”

The Spark Prize is named for Brooklyn Community Foundation’s mission to spark lasting social change in Brooklyn. The application launched in May 2016 with an open call to Brooklyn nonprofits to submit a 1,000-word essay demonstrating their deep history in Brooklyn and continued service to the borough; commitment to equity and racial justice for all Brooklynites; strong organizational values; and vision for the future of their work in Brooklyn and beyond. To be eligible, organizations had to have annual operating budgets over $350,000 and be in operation for at least five years.

The Spark Prize is a signature program of the Foundation’s Brooklyn Accelerator, a hub for building capacity and resources in Brooklyn’s nonprofit community. Through the Brooklyn Accelerator, the Foundation also offers free workshops for nonprofits, Board matching and governance training, and an Incubator that hosts start-up nonprofit enterprises. Reaching a diverse cross-section of Brooklyn nonprofits, the Prize will also strengthen the Foundation’s services to its donors who depend on the Foundation’s expertise and knowledge of the borough’s nonprofits to help guide their local giving and philanthropy.


About Brooklyn Community Foundation

Brooklyn Community Foundation is on a mission to spark lasting social change, mobilizing people, capital, and expertise for a fair and just Brooklyn. It is the first and only public foundation solely dedicated to Brooklyn’s charitable community, working in partnership with generous donors and community leaders to bolster vital nonprofits, strengthen neighborhoods, and increase opportunities for youth. Since its founding in 2009, the Foundation and its donors have provided over $25 million in grants to more than 300 nonprofits in Brooklyn and beyond. Learn more at


Media Contact: 

Liane Stegmaier, Director of Communications