Who We Are

The New York Foundation is a steadfast supporter of community organizing and advocacy in New York City. We believe that the resilience and vitality of its neighborhoods is the city’s greatest resource. Our grants support community-initiated solutions to solve local problems, constituents mobilizing for adequate and equitable resources, and groups organizing a collective voice among those whose voices have not been heard.

One of the first foundations in the United States, the New York Foundation was established in 1909 with a gift of $1 million from Alfred M. Heinsheimer, part of a bequest he had received from his brother Louis. This first philathropic gift was augmented by two additional gifts: one restricted broadly to the benefit of the young and the elderly; the second from the estate of Alfred M. Heinsheimer in 1929. Its founding documents list general philanthropic purposes, but its name has always signaled a special concern for New York City.

From the beginning the trustees argued that the role of philanthropy was to broaden awareness of social problems; not to limit grant making to direct charity. The early trustees were venture capitalists comfortable with a high degree of risk and made grants to organizations at their earliest stages.

To explore our grantmaking history and view examples of grants by issue area and decade, click here.

For more than 100 years, we have supported efforts that address a wide diversity of issues, but all grantees share a commitment to inspire New Yorkers to become more informed, active participants in the life of the city. Today our grant program encompasses both start-up grants to emerging groups-particularly those with few other sources of financial support-and longer-term institutional support. The Foundation influenced many changes in the philanthropic field during its history, primarily around making foundations processes more transparent and accessible. The Foundation also has created programs to help newer organizations build their capacity to thrive.