Taking Risks That Matter – NYF at 100

Written by Steven Barboza

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.