The New York Foundation looks to connect its grantees and other nonprofit organizations in New York City with resources useful in achieving our common goals. With our Knowledge Center we collect reports, case studies, policy briefs, and other knowledge assets produced by New York Foundation grantees and affiliated organizations. While some of these works were funded by the Foundation, our goal in providing this collection is to put a spotlight on the contributions that Foundation grantees have made to social issue analysis and problem solving.
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Featured

Celebrating 100 Years: Taking Risks That Matter

November 3, 2009

In 1906, the U.S. economy was in shambles. Banking titan Jacob H.. Schiff, who was to become founding chairman of the New York foundation, issued a stern warning that America would face critical failure if the nation didn't modernize its banking and currency systems. There would be "such a panic," he said, "As will make all previous panics look like child's play." The country did not heed his call, and in 1907, economic conditions worsened, the situation capped by two stock market crashes and a global credit shortage. Depositors lined up to take their money out of the banks. A little more than a hundred years later, the U.S. economy plunged once again. This time, investor Warren Buffett shared his view on the crisis, saying the economy has "fallen off a cliff." At first it might seem paradoxical to celebrate grantmaking amid the current economic conditions. But rich traditions of philanthropy deserve special honor not just in flush times, but also in times of greatest need. And one foundation--established in an economically stressful period of American history, when there were few templates for grantmaking--warrants recognition. Even during the toughest times of the past century, that foundation has stubbornly clung to the ideals upon which it was founded: social justice, grassroots giving, and faith in the resilience of New Yorkers. That foundation is the New York Foundation. This is its story.

What Happens When Communities Organize Through a Crisis?

June 8, 2020

The stories shared here illustrate the ways community members are caring for one another while also using strategies that engage and activate people to win a more just and equitable city.By securing collective well-being, these groups are building collective power.

What Happens When Communities Organize? Short Version

February 1, 2020

As a long time supporter of the city's vibrant community organizing and advocacy groups, often in their earliest stages, we wanted to illustrate how these organizations — large and small—are often the connective tissue between community members and campaigns to win significant public policy change. We wanted to capture the rich complexity of our grantees' experiences and suspected that the most interesting, compelling parts of what we knew to be true couldn't be easily explained by turning them into data sets. 

Streets to Statehouse: Building Grassroots Power in New York

January 1, 2020

This report shares the lessons learned from two 2019 statewide campaigns that were led by grassroots organizations working in coalition with broader policy and advocacy networks. Housing Justice for All and Green Light NY won significant changes for low-income renters and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants, respectively. The campaigns challenged the model of traditional top-down advocacy by centering directly-impacted people from low-income communities of color in leadership and decisionmaking. Both campaigns also demonstrated that community power can be leveraged between grassroots electoral organizing and issue-based legislative campaigns. Finally, by centering member-led organizations from rural, suburban and urban communities, the campaigns demonstrated how progressive policy changes require long-term investment in groups that build people power across regional difference through shared mass mobilization strategies. 

Moments That Define Our Work

August 1, 2019

This timeline provides a summary of key moments and grants of the New York Foundation related to racial equity from the 1910s to 2010s.

Nonprofit Executives and the Racial Leadership Gap: A Race to Lead Brief

May 28, 2019

This brief shifts focus to those who have already reached positions as nonprofit EDs and CEOs to explore how nonprofit executives grapple with the real-world demands of leadership when they attain it. The survey data and insights shared through interviews and focus groups highlight key areas where the pressures of executive leadership seem to be increased for people of color. Despite these challenges, nonprofit EDs and CEOs demonstrate remarkable determination and resilience.

Engage to Change: From Client Feedback to Participant Involvement

March 1, 2017

Service organizations are meeting the immediate needs of their constituents and provide essential supports. At the same time, many of these groups recognize how larger policies and procedures can make their job harder and limit options and opportunities of their program participants. With increasing inequality, slashes in public budgets, and greater demand on their services, nonprofits are looking for new ways to do their work.The set of strategies outlined here describes how some service organizations are integrating social change into their everyday work. Supporting the voice of their service recipients helps participants gain a sense of efficacy and gives organizations new ideas and power to make change.

What Happens When Communities Organize

April 29, 2015

As a long time supporter of the city's vibrant community organizing and advocacy groups, often in their earliest stages, we wanted to illustrate how these organizations—large and small—are often the connective tissue between community members and campaigns to win significant public policy change. We wanted to capture the rich complexity of our grantees' experiences and suspected that the most interesting, compelling parts of what we knew to be true couldn't be easily explained by turning them into data sets.Determined to draw a fuller picture of what happens when community members come together around common concerns, we decided to ask our grantees directly, and found:1. Wins and accomplishments fell across a wide spectrum.2. Groups used multiple, sophisticated strategies to achieve policy wins and accomplishments.3. Each win or accomplishment had its own distinctive and instructive story with a strong human element.

Advancing Community Level Impact: A Series of 5% Shifts

October 22, 2013

Service providers are on the front lines of our nation's struggles with the effects of poverty and inequity. While the sector has always focused on helping people, service organizations underwent significant changes in the 1980s when government began to contract out service delivery on an unprecedented scale. Over time, organizations absorbed the service functions that were largely abandoned by the state -- meeting people's basic needs for food, shelter, health, and safety. Facing increased competition for government contracts, increasing demands for services and tougher measures of accountability, many of these organizations adapted to the trends by becoming business savvy, professionalizing staff, and looking for models of efficiency. Other organizations did not participate in the new government contracting system and instead focused on organizing and advocating for changes in the government's social welfare policies. These major shifts in the sector are often described as creating a divide between "providing services to oppressed populations or organizing them to challenge power structures." But in practice, service groups fall at various places along a spectrum, and increasingly service organizations are integrating their mission to meet individual needs with their aspiration to address the larger systems, policies, and structures that contribute to the problems people face.This report examines how two organizations developed and executed strategies that advanced their commitment to bridge the service-organizing "divide" by thinking beyond individual needs to address problems at a community level.

Developing The Leadership of Recipients: A Series of 5% Shifts

October 22, 2013

Leadership is closely tied to notions of confidence, agency and authority in our culture. Too often, structural inequities restrict the opportunities for people to develop those self-perceptions and exercise leadership, particularly for people who find themselves in need of formal supportive services. Even within the nonprofit sector, issues of power imbalances that are embedded throughout society can be replicated within organizations and provider/client relationships. For instance, due to the lack of representation of voices from communities most likely to receive services, the systems and structures that govern public benefits and services often demand compliance to rules that recipients have not had a role in shaping. Additionally, the professionalization of service delivery -- which has been the subject of long-standing debate in social work theory -- can over-emphasize the power of the "expert" deliverers of services and reduce constituent's voice in advocating for themselves and their communities. In spite of these broader societal barriers and dynamics in the sector, organizations find a wide range of ways to develop clients as leaders, strengthen their self-image, and build their capacity to act on their own behalf.This report includes two case studies of leadership development efforts by nonprofit organizations.

Asking Powerful Questions: A Series of 5% Shifts

October 22, 2013

People working in service agencies constantly ask questions. During an intake process, questions may assess need and eligibility; in a counseling session, questions may focus on strengths and diagnoses; in an advocacy or organizing setting, the questions can be about root causes, power and strategy. While some questions can seem intrusive and coercive, other questions can "open the door to dialogue and discovery" and invite "creativity and breakthrough thinking." Questions can illuminate new opportunities and build a stronger foundation for relationships. Tapping into the power of questions to generate new possibilities and ignite change is an important tool for service providers working to help people and communities. This report profiles two organizations that began asking new and powerful questions in their work with clients and volunteers.

Building Community from the Inside Out: A Series of 5% Shifts

October 22, 2013

The concepts of community and social capital are connected to feelings of belonging, interdependence, trust and reciprocity; and both ideas have been integrated into frameworks for helping marginalized people and addressing social problems. Sense of community is linked to psychological well-being and is one of the most commonly researched ideas in the field of community psychology. Social capital gained popularity over the last two decades, thanks in part to Robert Putnam's best-selling book "Bowling Alone", and to foundations promoting the concept as "useful to help families escape poverty and build healthy communities."The popular focus on community and social capital may draw criticism for being romantic or naïve as a social change strategy, but in direct service delivery, both concepts point to the hard-to-quantify benefits that social service agencies provide. In neighborhoods that have been marginalized by economic and racial inequities, service providers often see specific problems of homelessness, hunger, unemployment, addiction, etc., linked to more generalized social distance and alienation. Therefore, when nonprofit organizations take a holistic approach to helping people, they should not overlook the importance of building a sense of community within their organization and among clients.This report includes two case studies of community building efforts by nonprofit organizations in Detroit and New York City.

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