F.Y. Eye's recent campaign features portraits by Sol Aramandi of Project Luz, inspiring New Yorkers to vote in the November general election.

Inspiring Voter Participation Through Arts and Media

When the City of New York launched DemocracyNYC, a nonpartisan initiative to increase voter participation and civic engagement, they turned to the city’s vibrant nonprofit and arts community for inspiration.  Among the civic partners that responded to the urgent call to action was F.Y. Eye, a nonprofit media agency that builds campaigns that call people to take action, donate, share, advocate and move their causes forward. “F.Y. Eye was created to democratize the town square,” said Jessica Toledano, Executive Director. “Too often in expensive media markets like New York City, the most important community voices are never heard. F.Y. Eye was created to change that fact.”  

Founded and initially funded by FJC donors, F.Y. Eye has tackled numerous issues including nutrition and food insecurity, workers’ rights, voting, immigrant health services, and participation in the U.S. Census.  Its strategies include creative services to design campaigns, paired with media planning and buying to strategically place its messages in high-traffic locations.

“Too often in expensive media markets like New York City, the most important community voices are never heard. F.Y. Eye was created to change that fact.”

Jessica Toledano, Executive Director, F.Y. Eye

Voter turnout is a particularly daunting challenge.  New York consistently ranks as one of the states with the lowest voter turnout rates in the country. In the 2016 general election, New York State ranked 41st in the country for voter turnout. In the 2018 midterm election, voter turnout increased, but still, less than 50% of all eligible voters participated. 

There was no shortage of voter engagement advertising leading up to the 2020 election. However, most of the ads in high circulation were partisan in nature or offered simplistic motivational messages from big name nonprofits aimed at the general population. F.Y. Eye identified a need for more nuanced campaigns that both provided specifics on how to vote safely during the pandemic, and came from trusted community messengers targeting voters of all backgrounds.

F.Y. Eye’s most recent campaigns have engaged artists and designers who are particularly rooted in immigrant communities.     

In advance of the general election this November, F.Y. Eye engaged Sol Aramandi to build a bi-lingual, portrait-based campaign, encouraging New Yorkers to cast their votes based on issues that affect their communities. Ms. Aramandi’s advertisements have been placed in community newspapers such as El Diario, Bronx Free Press and Brooklyn Times, as well as traditional media spaces around the city such as bus shelters and LinkNYC. Sourced through F.Y. Eye’s Impact Artist Network, Sol Aramandi is a celebrated photographer and activist specializing in portraying immigrant communities. Ms. Aramandi works as a solo artist and the principal of Project Luz, which empowers new immigrant New Yorkers with photography as a tool to explore the city and tell its stories, as well as their own.

“It’s important to us to hire artists for our campaigns that have an organic connection to the communities we’re representing,” explains Calder Zwicky, Programs and Creative Director of F.Y. Eye. “Sol’s portraits express her love and organic connection within this community.”

This most recent campaign builds on work F.Y. Eye launched during the June 2021 primaries to educate all New Yorkers about Ranked Choice voting, through guerilla building projections, diverse artist partnerships and community events. New York City had its highest voter turnout for a primary election in 3 decades during this year’s primary election.

The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures has opened at the iconic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. Photo courtesy of New York Public Library

FJC Donors Celebrate Opening of New York Public Library “Treasures”

On September 24, FJC donors Leonard Polonsky CBE and Georgette Bennett joined New York City’s civic community to celebrate the opening of The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library’s Treasures.  

A significant portion of the $12 million grant that made the exhibition possible was generated from the sale of Dr. Polonsky’s and Dr. Bennett’s vacation home in Aspen, CO.  The family fund donated the property to FJC in 2018, which then sold the real estate, generating the proceeds that covered a portion of the grant.  (See our previous story, “Private Home Transforms Public Library”).

“The New York Public Library is an iconic institution with a trove of buried treasures. I’m delighted to help bring them to the surface so that the public can forever share in them.”

Leonard Polonsky, FJC Donor

This permanent exhibition at the iconic 42nd Street branch library showcases over 250 rare items from the Library’s renowned research collections, giving visitors a unique opportunity to see and explore objects and stories that have helped shape our world. 

The objects—spanning 4,000 years of history—represent key moments, movements, and stories. They continue to inspire curiosity, conversation, and a stronger understanding of the past to inform a better future. The exhibition draws exclusively from the Library’s research collections, which contain over 45 million objects including rare books, manuscripts, photographs, prints, maps, ephemera, audio and moving image, and more, collected over the institution’s 126 years.

A significant portion of the grant that made the exhibition possible was generated from the sale of Dr. Polonsky’s and Dr. Bennett’s vacation home, which had been donated to FJC.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence
  • Manuscript page of Maya Angelou’s poem I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
  • The set model for the Off Broadway production of In The Heights
  • The stuffed animals that belonged to the real-life Christopher Robin and inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh stories

Admission to the exhibition is free, and timed tickets are available at the New York Public Library web site.

“The New York Public Library is an iconic institution with a trove of buried treasures,” said Dr. Polonsky. “I’m delighted to help bring them to the surface so that the public can forever share in them.”

Teen radio producers for Ouro Negro da Malta, a youth-focused initiative developed in partnership with PCI Media, UNICEF and Ministry of Health (Mozambique).

Bridge Financing a Bequest: The Case of PCI Media

Under Meesha Brown’s leadership as President, PCI Media developed a strategic plan with an ambitious path for growth.  As an organization that uses storytelling and communications across the world to shift mindsets and make meaningful cultural and positive behavioral change, Ms. Brown and her team were determined to increase impact, develop new partnerships, and achieve economies of scale.  “We had this new plan for growth that required us to develop a new, more robust private donor base,” said Ms. Brown, “but the question was, how would we get started?”

The answer to this question came from out of the blue, in the form of a bequest.  A donor, who had made occasional grants to PCI Media over the years, had passed away and selected PCI Media for a major gift, alongside dozens of nonprofit organizations devoted to conservation, family planning and health, women and girls, and arts and culture.  PCI Media, whose mission spans all of these program areas, expects to receive between $4 – $8 million from this bequest, a windfall that will catapult the organization into its next phase, allowing them to execute on their strategic vision.  (The donor has requested anonymity).

A $550,000 loan from FJC and SeaChange Capital Partners will bridge a $4 – $8 million bequest from a donor, while they wait for the estate to wind its way through the probate process.

The urgent needs of PCI Media’s stakeholders, however, required the organization to begin implementation immediately, even as the estate winds its way through the probate process.  (The legal process for sorting through the donor’s last wishes can take several months to resolve, sometimes longer with complicated estates).  PCI Media’s plans required immediate action: hiring new staff, investing in program expansion, and establishing systems for sustainable growth.

Enter FJC and its fellow nonprofit lender SeaChange Capital Partners.  FJC and SeaChange are co-lenders on a $550,000 loan to bridge PCI Media’s bequest.  The loan will allow PCI Media to jumpstart their next phase of work as they wait for the funds from the bequest to arrive. 

PCI Media’s mission is to create a healthier, more just, and sustainable world using the power of storytelling and community. The organization partners with local organizations across the world to shift social norms and mobilize communities through culturally resonant radio programs, social media, and interactive communication campaigns.  Their local partnerships have taken them to over 70 countries, including in recent years Peru, Colombia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Mozambique, just to name a few. Beyond helping their partners produce effective content, PCI Media builds partner capacity for the long term, helping them format programs to produce positive change, organize as networks of media stations and community coalitions, and engage their audiences on a host of issues. 

“It’s such a pleasure to work with lenders like FJC and SeaChange that are so sensitive to the needs of nonprofits.”

Meesha Brown, President, PCI Media

In Mozambique, for example, PCI Media has launched a multi-pronged communication initiative  Ouro Negro  (Black Gold), in partnership with UNICEF Mozambique and the Ministry of Health, focused on improving public health outcomes in childhood nutrition and maternal health. As the longest-running radio drama in the country, it has broadcast over 394 episodes on 116 national radio and local stations. In the drama, worlds collide as a fictional African village is confronted with the arrival of a foreign mining company.  Against this backdrop of tension and change, listeners learn essential maternal, newborn, and child health practices. Rapid assessment surveys showed widespread impact after season one. Ouro Negro is currently in its 7th season.

The Covid-19 pandemic only intensified the need for media that improved access to health information and services.   In response to the pandemic, PCI Media’s production teams practiced social distancing, recording voices one by one, and disinfecting the studio between each actor. PCI Media recreated community discussion forums online. “We know our work is important, but with the increases in risks to women and girls, children, and overall health, the pandemic made it clear that the need for our programs exceeds what we can provide with our current funding,” said Ms. Brown.

Receiving this bridge financing from FJC and SeaChange allows PCI Media to smooth the cash flow challenges associated with government and bilateral organizations, close program funding gaps and ensure there is no disruption to the 4 million listeners who rely on their programming for reliable health information.

Ms. Brown notes that bridge lending against donor bequests is not a typical product in the banking sector.   “It’s such a pleasure to work with lenders like FJC and SeaChange that are so sensitive to the needs of nonprofits,” said Ms. Brown.

Photo courtesy of Harvey Wacht

Conserving Nature and Legacy: A Tribute to FJC Donor Karin Heine

If you visit the Heine Wildlife Preserve, located in Wheat Ridge in the greater Denver metropolitan area, you might find dozens of species of birds, butterflies, deer, and fox.  You might marvel at the habitat diversity of this 11-acre urban oasis.  And you might encounter schoolchildren from the nearby Alpine Valley School, examining bugs, filling bird-feeders, and maintaining the bumblebee habitat. 

This oasis of urban wildlife conservation represents the vision of longtime FJC donor Karin Heine, who passed away in May of this year.  Ms. Heine was committed over her lifetime to demonstrating how humans might integrate more harmoniously with nature and wildlife, even in urban settings.

Ms. Heine “was often first in line to help others, but her passion was the charities she cared about.”

Harvey Wacht, Principal and Senior Financial Advisor, ShufroRose

“So much conservation in urban areas is abstract and hypothetical,” explains Tony Caligiuri, President of Colorado Open Land.  “The special thing about the Heine Wildlife Preserve was that it was right in the middle of the neighborhood, and it was a relatable example of what could be done in an urban environment.” He noted that Ms. Heine loved to make educational opportunities about the environment available to young people, in the hopes of inspiring a next generation of conservators.

Colorado Open Lands was one of several environmental and conservation nonprofits that received significant grants following Ms. Heine’s untimely death, as part of final distribution of funds from her Donor Advised Fund account.  Like all the organizations receiving funds from the final distribution, Ms. Heine enjoyed a decades-long relationship with Colorado Open Lands.  

In the early 2000s, Colorado Open Lands entered into an agreement with Ms. Henie to establish a conservation easement on her property: a voluntary, permanent contract whereby the landowner gives up development rights of a property in perpetuity, in return for tax benefits.  The preserve has grown through careful stewardship from 3.7 acres initially to 11 acres today, and the easement will ensure the property will remain a nature habitat forever.  Following Ms. Heine’s death, Colorado Open Lands is in conversation with its board about this most strategic use of her final grant, with the hopes of adding organizational capacity to address a backlog of similar conservation projects, representing potential conservation of 100,000 acres across the state. 

Ms. Heine was committed over her lifetime to demonstrating how humans might integrate more harmoniously with nature and wildlife, even in urban settings. Her philanthropy has created an enduring conservation legacy for generations to come.

“The Nature Conservancy works locally to globally, and Ms. Heine appreciated that approach,” said Carlos Fernandez, the State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado, another organization that received significant grant funding from Ms. Heine’s DAF account.  He noted that Ms. Heine was a discerning philanthropist with a trust-based approach to giving that allowed the Conservancy to find the most impactful use for the funds.

Financial advisor Harvey Wacht, a Principal at ShufroRose, reflected on his thirty-year friendship with Ms. Heine, which began with a advisory relationship with Ms. Heine and other members of her family.  Ms. Heine lived among animals, keeping goats for pets and a chicken coop “before it became fashionable for hipsters in Brooklyn.”  He noted that Ms. Heine cared deeply about the local community, and “was often first in line to help others,” often providing financial support personally to friends and neighbors in crisis.  “But her passion was the charities that she cared about,” reflected Mr. Wacht, noting that her philanthropy and longstanding nonprofit relationships have created an enduring conservation legacy for generations to come.

Discussing innovative and responsive uses of DAFs on the EPCNYC webinar: Mark Cohen (FJC), Sam Marks (FJC), Dolores Kordon (Brighter Tomorrows), Hank Snyder (JP Morgan, moderator), and Annie Polland (The Tenement Museum)

Innovative, Revolving Uses of DAFs Featured in Webinar

Leaders of two nonprofit organizations whose urgent financial needs were met by innovative FJC donors were featured on a webinar hosted by the Estate Planning Council of NYC (EPCNYC), titled “Multiplying your Impact: Innovative Approaches to Revolving Philanthropic Dollars”.  The nonprofit Executive Directors, Annie Polland of The Tenement Museum and Dolores Kordon of Brighter Tomorrows, were joined by members of FJC’s leadership, CEO Sam Marks and Chief Legal Officer Mark Cohen, who described the foundation’s role executing the transactions.  The event was moderated by Henry Snyder, Executive Director of JP Morgan’s Private Bank, and a member of EPCNYC.

While most holders of Donor Advised Fund (DAF) accounts use their philanthropic funds for grants, the webinar highlighted cases where donors identified financing gaps in the organizations that could be addressed with solutions that combined philanthropic intent with investment strategies.

“We’re trying to inspire more of our donors to approach philanthropy in this way, and bring new donors that are inspired by examples like these.”

Sam Marks, Chief Executive Officer, FJC

In the case of Brighter Tomorrows, a domestic violence nonprofit serving women and families on Long Island, the donor was solving for a cash flow problem.  As Ms. Kordon explained, the majority of the organization’s work is funded with government contracts.  These contracts, typically administered through the state or county, are notoriously slow to pay even during normal times and are typically paid on a reimbursement basis.  During the pandemic, when the needs of clients for shelter, food, and emergency assistance were at an all-time high, the public agency offices administering payments on the contracts were also facing major capacity issues.  “Payments slowed to a snail’s pace,” Ms. Kordon lamented. “With the pandemic came all sorts of additional emergency costs, and we had to still keep the lights on and pay rent.”

Enter Sandy Wheeler, one of Brighter Tomorrows’ most steadfast donors.  Ms. Wheeler worked with FJC to deploy $100,000 in her DAF account as a 0% interest revolving line of credit.  This cash resource allowed Brighter Tomorrows to continue meeting the urgent needs of clients, even in the face of slower contract payments.  In the year since the loan was closed, the funds have been fully drawn, repaid, and drawn again. “I can’t say enough about the importance of having a donor provide this resource,” says Ms. Kordon. “It was a godsend for us.” 

“I can’t say enough about the importance of having a donor provide this resource. It was a godsend for us.”

Dolores Kordon, Executive Director, Brighter Tomorrows

FJC facilitated a more complex transaction with The Tenement Museum, a vital organization that has been researching and telling the stories of immigrant New Yorkers for the past 25 years. In the early days of the pandemic, the organization faced significant financial distress, as documented in an New York Times article, “A Museum Devoted to Survivors Faces Its Own Fight for Survival” (April 24, 2020). The article noted that 75% of the museum’s revenue came from earned income, reflecting admissions and gift shop revenue of its 285,000 annual visitors.  As a result of the pandemic their visitors (and attendant revenue) had dried up, but the museum carried significant fixed costs due to its mortgage, which cost the museum $585,000 per year.

One of FJC’s donors read the New York Times article and reached out to inquire whether he could refinance the museum’s mortgage with funds in his DAF account.  Upon further conversation with the Museum’s leadership, it was revealed that the mortgage was in the form of a tax-exempt bond, issued by the City of New York through its Build NYC Resource Corporation, a division of the NYC Economic Development Corporation.  In coordination with the donor, FJC purchased the bond from the bondholder, and amended the terms to interest-only at 1% per year, reducing the museum’s annual debt service payment from $585,000 per year to $80,000.  “We are paying $2.5 million less out of pocket for debt service over these five years,” explains Ms. Polland. “This has bought us time to figure out how we manage through this pandemic year, but it also freed us up to think of creative ways to operate.” Ms. Polland noted that the museum has been able to develop distance learning modules that have engaged students virtually from as far away as California.  She also noted its new exhibit focusing on a Black family and a walking tour called “Reclaiming Black Spaces,” which explores sites connected with nearly 400 years of African-American presence on the Lower East Side.  “The Museum is not just pausing,” she said. “We’re taking on new and addressing the questions important to this country.  How does learning our history help us move forward?”  The Museum’s new programs and strong emergence from the pandemic were featured again in the New York Times this month, a story that Ms. Polland describes as a “bookend” to the previous year’s story on the organization’s distressed financial picture.

“We are paying $2.5 million less out of pocket for debt service over these five years. This has bought us time to figure out how we manage through this pandemic year, but it also freed us up to think of creative ways to operate.”

Annie Polland, Executive Director, The Tenement Museum

Mr. Cohen explained that after five years, FJC intends to sell the bond back to the bond market, and will aim to recoup the $9.5 million face value of the bond for the donor’s account.  These funds can then be recycled as grants or additional loans or impact investments.

The moderator Mr. Snyder noted that customized transactions like these do not appear to be standard offerings at most DAF sponsors.  Mr. Marks noted that philanthropic lending and impact investing are more common at the more sophisticated, professionalized foundations and that FJC had a long history of applying best practices from philanthropy more broadly to their DAF account holders.  “We’re trying to inspire more of our donors to approach philanthropy in this way,” says Mr. Marks, “and work with new donors that are inspired by examples like these.”

Photo courtesy of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest

Donor Legacy Supports Transformation of NYC’s Response to Mental Health Crises

In life, Helen Rehr led a distinguished, trailblazing career in social work.  She was known for revolutionizing and standardizing the field of social work, and her long career at Mt Sinai, where she retired in her role as Chair of the Division of Social Work in 1986.  Ms. Rehr was also a longtime donor at FJC.  Since her death in 2013, FJC has honored her philanthropic legacy by honoring her wishes through a Board-advised Fund, “to identify worthwhile projects determined by FJC to be used for social services, research or training projects all to enhance health and mental health care for vulnerable populations within the State of Israel and the City of New York.”

This year FJC issued a Request for Proposals that put a timely focus on her programmatic wishes: “organizations engaged in social work research and/or training projects focused on developing alternatives to the current police response when encountering the mentally ill in NY.” Each year, the New York Police Department (NYPD) responds to nearly 200,000 calls regarding individuals experiencing mental health crises.  In the past five years alone, notwithstanding Mayor Bill de Blasio’s implementation of crisis intervention training for police officers, 18 individuals were fatally shot by police when experiencing a mental health crisis, and 15 of those 18 individuals were Black or Brown.

“It is high time to transform the way New York responds to mental health crises an ensure that all New Yorkers are provided the services they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve.”

Ruth Lowenkron, Director, Disability Justice Program, NYLPI

The winning response to the RFP came from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), working in coordination with program partner Community Access.  The $100,000 grant will fund the two organizations to advocate for New York City to establish a non-police response to mental health crises, which will consist of trained peers (those with lived mental health experience) and independent emergency medical technicians whose aim is to de-escalate violence and administer proper assistance through a non-police mental healthcare response. 

Recognizing that creating an alternate response to mental health crises means doing as much as possible to ensure crises never happen in the first place, NYLPI will also develop a training geared to such frontline workers as social workers to de-escalate crises, building on a Community Access training module that seeks to equip workers with the knowledge and de-escalation skills to make compassionate connections with people in crisis.

“We could not be more grateful for the FJC’s generous support of this critical work,” said Ruth Lowenkron, Director of NYLPI’s Disability Justice Program who spearheads NYLPI’s work in this area.  “For far too long, our citizens who experience mental health crises have been neglected and worse.  It is high time to transform the way New York responds to mental health crises an ensure that all New Yorkers are provided the services they need and are treated with the dignity they deserve.”

NYLPI will leverage the grant from the Helen Rehr fund as a match for their #MentalHealthCareNotPolice campaign, which NYLPI and its coalition partners will be highlighting throughout the year in a series of events in public parks.  Visit NYLPI’s website for more information.

Image courtesy of Center for Effective Philanthropy

Center for Effective Philanthropy Highlights FJC Revolving Funds

The Center for Effective Philanthropy has published a blog by FJC’s CEO Sam Marks titled, “Stretching Dollars without Straining Donors: The Case for Revolving Funds.”  The blog post features a donor’s innovative use of a DAF-like account at FJC to support the nonprofit Southern Environmental Law Center’s pioneering anti-pollution litigation work, as well as additional applications of revolving funds.  An excerpt is below.

At FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, we have worked with imaginative donors to structure revolving accounts (essentially, variations on Donor Advised Fund accounts) with a goal of empowering nonprofits to take on significant campaigns and projects. Such arrangements can be incredibly catalytic, giving nonprofits the confidence to move forward on complex projects while mitigating financial risk. Also, by prioritizing activities with a high likelihood of recovery, these structures create the potential for donors to amplify their impact, revolving their funds so that the same philanthropic dollar can have multiple impacts on multiple projects. 

A case in point is our work with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), a 35-year-old nonprofit organization active across six states.

As impact investing becomes further mainstreamed among foundations and holders of Donor Advised Funds, imaginative donors should consider recoverable grants and revolving fund structures as an additional tool in their continuing philanthropy.

To achieve their mission, SELC uses a broad array of law and policy approaches including strategic litigation which can be expensive and resource intensive.  Enter an anonymous donor at FJC. The donor worked with FJC to create an account where charitable grants to SELC are deposited and from which SELC can draw funds specifically to pay for direct litigation expenses (like expert fees) in potential fee-recovery cases. Periodically, when SELC wins a case and recovers attorney fees, they make a deposit back into the FJC fund to replenish it in the event of future need. To date, SELC has drawn approximately $1 million from the revolving fund to pay for professional experts and other direct litigation expenses. With an incoming payment of fees recovered from SELC’s landmark Atlantic Coast Pipeline litigation, SELC will have redeposited some $270,000 back into the fund. 

As impact investing becomes further mainstreamed among foundations and holders of Donor Advised Funds, imaginative donors should consider recoverable grants and revolving fund structures as an additional tool in their continuing philanthropy. A fundraising campaign around this type of fund may engage donors that wish to invest in the organization’s growth and capacity while simultaneously compelling donors who would find value in seeing significant, multiple impacts over a long period of time as a result of a one-time gift.

For more information about revolving funds and how SELC put this unique resource to work, read the full blog post at Center for Effective Philanthropy.

Photo courtesy of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

FJC Hosts Funding Collaborative to Fight Homelessness

Earlier this year, FJC began hosting a funding collaborative of corporate, family, and private foundations that have aligned their funding in an effort to transform New York City’s homelessness systems.   FJC has disbursed over $525,000 in grants on behalf of The NYC Fund to End Youth and Family Homelessness, which expects to make a total of $3 million over the next two years.

The vision of the collaborative goes beyond funding social services.  The Fund seeks to “transform major systems so that they operate to promote housing stability as part of their core function” by influencing a constellation of interlocking systems: housing and shelter; education; foster care; child and family welfare; health, including mental and behavioral health; law enforcement and justice.

The Fund’s governance structure ensures that the philanthropic strategy is being shaped by people with the lived experience of homelessness.

“We’re looking to make strategic grants where if you can just push in the right spot, you can have a compounding effect on impact,” explains Lisa Talma VP of Philanthropic Initiatives at Deutsche Bank, one of the funders.  Among the grants the Fund has made include the development of technology applications that enable homeless individuals to access public resources and programs more quickly, and initiatives that provide direct cash transfers to homeless individuals and families. 

The Fund’s governance structure ensures that the philanthropic strategy is being shaped by people with the lived experience of homelessness.  The Fund currently reserves four seats on its Steering Committee for the two Co-Coordinators of New York City’s Youth Action Board and the two Housing Policy Fellows of New York City’s Family Homelessness Coalition.  By explicitly advancing equity and lived expertise as core values, the collaborative has attracted both national and local funders looking to support cutting-edge programs and interventions.  UPDATED 6/17/21: One of the projects supported by the Fund to research the impact of direct cash transfer payments to homeless youth has attracted follow-on investment from the City of New York.  Read the press release about the Trust Youth Initiative, a program of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago and Point Source Youth.

“We considered fiscal sponsorship as an option, but the [Collective Giving Account]’s ease of use and efficient fee structure made it the right vehicle,”

Bea De La Torre, Co-Chair, Managing Director of Housing & Homelessness, Trinity Church Wall Street

To assist the Fund in achieving its goals, FJC arranged a Collective Giving Account (CGA), a variation on a Donor Advised Fund that allows for incoming contributions from multiple philanthropic actors.  “We considered fiscal sponsorship as an option, but the CGA account’s ease of use and efficient fee structure made it the right vehicle,” explains Bea De La Torre, Co-Chair of the Fund, and Managing Director of Housing and Homelessness at Trinity Church Wall Street. 

“Very often our CGA accounts are used by individuals to mark life occasions,” says FJC Chief Operating Officer Meghan Hudson, “Weddings, bar mitzvahs, and the like.  It was easy enough to apply this vehicle to the needs of these more institutional foundations, and we hope to do more in the future.”

List of funders

  • Block-Leavitt Foundation
  • Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation
  • Helmsley Charitable Trust
  • Melville Charitable Trust
  • Pinkerton Foundation
  • Stavros Niarchos Foundation
  • Trinity Church Wall Street

Grants to date

  • Settlement Housing Fund – supporting the NYC Family Homelessness Coalition’s Housing Policy Fellows program, which hires and trains advocates with lived expertise of family homelessness in NYC to help the Coalition’s policy, advocacy, and communications initiatives.
  • Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Service – supporting the Coalition for Homeless Youth in launching a first-of-its kinds Peer Navigator Program, which will train a corps of young people with lived expertise of homelessness to work at youth homelessness service organizations throughout NYC as part of their client service teams, helping their peers find permanent housing and access other benefits programs and support.
  • Rethink Food NYC – as fiscal sponsor for Streetlives, an initiative to co-design, build, and operate a technology platform with youth with lived expertise to better connect young people facing housing instability with the information, services, and support they’re seeking to improve their lives.
  • Funders Together to End Homelessness – to join this national organization and benefit from its learning on national best practices in grantmaking and its public policy advocacy, and to join its cohort of Foundations for Racial Equity.
  • Chapin Hall at University of Chicago – to support a groundbreaking pilot and rigorous evaluation of a Direct Cash Transfer Program, which will study the impact of providing monthly flexible cash support for two years to young people experiencing homelessness in NYC and compare their outcomes with control groups who receive significantly more costly, non-fungible supports like shelter.

For more information, visit the Fund’s home page.

Donor’s Revolving Fund Finances Energy Efficient Shelter For the Homeless

Through a revolving account at FJC, a donor passionate about the environment has provided financing to create a state-of-the-art transitional shelter for New York City homeless families, through an innovative philanthropic partnership with the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC). 

The donor has created a revolving account at FJC that NYCEEC can use to cover critical project activities like energy modeling, feasibility analysis, design drawings, and land-use approvals.  These costs are reimbursable when construction financing closes, allowing funds in the FJC account to be redeployed for NYCEEC’s future worthy projects. 

NYCEEC will use the capital to fund early-stage predevelopment work on the adaptive reuse of a former nurses’ residence on the Greenpoint Hospital campus in Brooklyn. The renovated building will provide state of the art temporary accommodation to 200 of New York City’s most vulnerable residents.  The shelter is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification.  Savings in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional construction are projected to be 384 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

The shelter is a component of the $212.7 million redevelopment of the Greenpoint Hospital campus, in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The redevelopment project is the culmination of years of advocacy by a consortium of neighborhood-based organizations, led by the nonprofit St. Nick’s Alliance.  The development will also include apartments for extremely low-income and very low-income residents and seniors, a community facility, and a network of new open spaces to connect the campus to the surrounding neighborhood. A partnership between St. Nick’s Alliance, Project Renewal, and Hudson Companies was designated by New York City to redevelop the site, which has been primarily vacant since 1982 when the Greenpoint Hospital was closed.

Philanthropic capital from FJC will fund over one-third of NYCEEC’s $1.3 million predevelopment loan. “We allocate capital from a range of public and private sources for projects like this,” explains Jay Merves, NYCEEC’s Director of Business Development. “Many of our capital providers put geographic or other restrictions on the use of their capital, so the flexibility of funds from the FJC donor is vital in allowing NYCEEC to provide financing for clean energy projects in underserved communities.”

Photo courtesy of Queens College.

FJC Donor Expands Opportunity at Queens College

A Korean-American woman majors in History, Political Science, and Anthropology and spends her summer volunteering to rebuild Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.  A Colombian man lives with his grandmother, following his mother’s deportation, while studying to become a journalist.  A first generation Chinese-American college student serves as President of the Chemistry Honor Society, where he tutors other students who struggle with chemistry.

What do these students have in common?  They are among the seven Queens College students that received financial support from Queens College alumni, as part of the Phi Epsilon Pi Endowed Fund.  One of this group of Queens College alumni is Robert Jacobs who actively uses FJC to support his philanthropic efforts.

In November 2018, Mr. Jacobs had an epiphany. By chance, he read a newspaper article about former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s generous donation to Johns Hopkins University—a gift ensuring that no accepted student would be unable to attend because of financial circumstances. In that moment, Jacobs knew that his time had come to make a difference at his alma mater, Queens College. Within a month, he established a scholarship to benefit students of academic merit who need financial assistance. 

Jacobs knew that his time had come to make a difference at his alma mater, Queens College. Within a month, he established a scholarship to benefit students of academic merit who need financial assistance. 

But that was just the beginning. After receiving touching letters of appreciation from his scholarship recipients, Jacobs shared the notes with his fraternity brothers and planted the idea of doing something greater. During a biannual Phi Epsilon Pi dinner, he proposed starting an endowment at the college. This was a chance for this group of friends to leave a legacy and to assist students for many years to come.

“All of us have forgotten whatever we learned in Contemporary Civilization, but we have not forgotten the opportunity that Queens College provided a bunch of poor, hardworking, smart kids from the five boroughs and Nassau and Suffolk Counties,” Jacobs says. “Queens College gave us a chance to succeed in ways that our parents, as products of the Depression and as second-generation Americans, could have only dreamt about.”

“Queens College gave us a chance to succeed in ways that our parents, as products of the Depression and as second-generation Americans, could have only dreamt about.”

With the help of 26 fraternity brothers and more participating each month, the Phi Epsilon Pi Endowed Fund has raised over $176,000 and continues to grow with consistent gifts from the fraternity brothers.  It has given them the opportunity to further the bond that was initiated so many years ago.. To date, the endowment has funded seven student scholarships over the past two years and it is expected that it will fund another two this year , and the funders are adding a mentoring component to the program.  Further, it has inspired a fellow fraternity to establish its own fund in support of student scholarships.

The demographics of Queens College are quite different from the institution they attended fifty years ago.  When Mr. Jacobs graduated in 1970, white students made up the vast majority of students at the school. Today, students of color represent nearly three-quarters of the student population, and nearly one-third are foreign born.  Another major change is tuition.  As part of the City University of New York system, Queens College began charging tuition since the mid- 1970’s.  While tuition of approximately $7,000 a year for a full-time undergraduate degree is quite modest compared with private colleges, it is still a hardship for many students.  Almost half of Queens College students come from households earning less than $30,000 per year. 

While the demographics are different, Jacobs and his fraternity brothers would rather focus on their similarities.  “They’re just like we were.  They’re strivers,” Jacobs states.  “None of my college friends were born with a silver spoon.” He also notes that public education was the foundation for his successful career, which included being a partner at Ernst & Young and now managing his own healthcare consulting practice.  “How can we not give back when we paid $46 a term?”

With their philanthropy, Jacobs and his peers are having a major impact on today’s Queens College students like Joss Montano.  The scholarship, Montano writes, “…guarantees that I will continue my education, a possibility I would be unsure of without the assistance it provides me. It is a nod at what I have been working toward, and an affirmation that the sacrifices my family has made for me to get an education, have been worth it.”

Portions of this article appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Queens College magazine and appear courtesy of Jennifer Beiner and the Queens College Office of Institutional Advancement.