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February 2014 | Grant Newsletters

Old Money New Money; Old Problems New Solutions

For 90 years, The Trust has been making donors’ charitable dreams come true by funding the nonprofits that make the City and its suburbs great places to live, work, and play.

Jacob Schiff

Harriett Bartlett

Ninety years ago, when the first funds were established in The New York Community Trust, “Rhapsody in Blue” premiered in the City with George Gershwin at the piano. The Thanksgiving Day Parade marched to Macy’s for the first time. John Francis Hylan was mayor, Calvin Coolidge sat in the White House, and newspapers reported the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. 

Much has changed since 1924, but—remarkably—most of The Trust’s funds created that year continue to make New York a better place. 

One of those funds honors financier and philanthropist Jacob Schiff, who left Germany in 1873 to seek his fortune in New York. He found it as a Wall Street investment banker with numerous railroad stock holdings before he died in 1920.

His daughter, Frieda Schiff Warburg, created a permanent fund in his honor to provide services for the poor, a cause he held dear. Originally $500,000, it’s now worth more than $2.6 million. In just the past two decades, we’ve used the Jacob H. Schiff Memorial Fund to give more than $2 million to nonprofits finding solutions for New Yorkers in need—but that’s only part of the story.

The Trust’s grantmaking combines hundreds of donors’ charitable interests so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Schiff Fund contributed half of the money for our recent grant to provide social services for poor families in East Harlem. The other half of the grant came from the Harriett Bartlett Fund, a fund established in 1987 by a philanthropist from an entirely different background.

While Jacob Schiff, a German immigrant, was a self-made multimillionaire, Harriett Bartlett traced her inherited wealth back to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Josiah Bartlett. But both Schiff and Harriett Bartlett loved New York and wanted to improve the fortunes of those less fortunate. The years pass, and Schiff and Bartlett continue to help.

New York and its community foundation are all stronger for our diversity. Only at The Trust could Jacob Schiff and Harriett Bartlett join forces to do good.

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The New York Community Trust is a 501(c)3 public charity.