What the Trust Funds | New York Community Trust

We are metropolitan New York’s community foundation, serving New York City and Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties. Our competitive grants are made possible primarily by funds set up by donor bequests and wills, supporting projects to improve the lives of New Yorkers.

Our Grants

Our competitive grants are supported by hundreds of funds. Some can be used at our discretion, while others were created for particular purposes and range from specific (helping injured, needy, classical ballet dancers)—to broad (improving opportunities for poor girls and women).

Based on our guidelines, program officers review proposals and identify the best projects to recommend to our board. Our Long Island and Westchester divisions have their own guidelines and grantmaking processes. (The Trust also has many living donors who suggest grants from donor-advised funds. These funds do not accept proposals.)

Funder Collaboratives

We are home to several funder collaboratives that bring foundations and charitable individuals together to address issues such as immigration, education, and equity in the arts. These collaborative funds do not accept unsolicited proposals; instead they issue requests for proposals or solicit nonprofits to apply. Please see descriptions of the collaboratives and their RFPs.

Our Grantmaking Guidelines

Here are guidelines in our 16 program areas:

Healthy Lives

We help providers deliver efficient, patient-focused, equitable, and cost-effective health and behavioral health services to all New Yorkers. We support projects that develop the skills and independence of four groups: older adults, the blind or visually impaired, children and youth with disabilities, and people with developmental disabilities. We also support biomedical research and projects promoting animal welfare.

Animal Welfare
Animal Welfare

Program goal: for the humane treatment and medical care of animals.

Biomedical Research
Biomedical Research

Program goals:

Health and Behavioral Health
Health and Behavioral Health

Program goal: to promote an equitable, patient-focused, and cost-effective health and behavioral health care delivery system.

Grants are made to:

  • Advocate for successful health care reform implementation to ensure:
    • maintenance of a strong and viable health and behavioral health care safety net;
    • access to comprehensive and coordinated care for those who remain uninsured or underinsured; and
    • availability of screening, early intervention, and referral for effective treatment of disease.
  • Build the capacity of New York City’s health, behavioral health, and human service sectors to succeed in a reformed health care system by:
    • developing effective skills training for the professional and paraprofessional health care workforce; and
    • strengthening financial and information technology systems to allow transition to value-based payments.
  • Reduce health disparities between low- and higher-income neighborhoods through investments in disadvantaged communities that:
    • improve indoor and outdoor air quality;
    • provide safe and inviting parks and open space;
    • promote access to affordable and healthy food; and
    • engage residents in efforts to encourage physical activity and healthy diets.
  • Foster the independence of people with mental illness and substance use histories by:
    • expanding innovative programs that offer clinical care as well as practical services, such as housing, employment, and education; and
    • advocating for expansion of participant-led or informed service models that are sustainable and effective.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Older Adults and People with Disabilities
Older Adults and People with Disabilities

The Trust has a coordinated approach that reflects the common challenges and opportunities for the following groups of people: older adults, children and youth with disabilities, people with blindness and visual disabilities, and people with developmental disabilities. We support projects that target low-income individuals and communities.

Grants are made to:

  • Make New York City communities—especially those that are under-resourced—accessible, welcoming, and inclusive by:
    • supporting research and pilot efforts that demonstrate these principles; and
    • ensuring that laws that fund services and expand opportunities are implemented fully and effectively.
  • Ensure that health, social, education, and vocational services allow older adults and people with disabilities to live up to their fullest potential by:
    • supporting and replicating proven strategies that help these populations receive appropriate education, high quality vocational preparation, and equal employment opportunities;
    • testing new approaches that use technology and other innovations to help older adults and people with disabilities remain as independent as possible; and
    • supporting families and caregivers of older adults and people with disabilities.
  • Build the capacity of nonprofits serving older adults and people with disabilities:
    • ensuring the workforce serving these populations is provided effective training, better career pathways, and increased job quality;
    • helping agencies create appropriate financial and management systems, and partnerships to benefit from new financing mechanisms through Medicaid and Medicare.

The Health and Behavioral Health and the Older Adult and People with Disabilities strategies give preference to projects that offer sector-wide, systemic, and multi-agency solutions, and whenever possible, make grants in partnership with other Trust program areas to ensure the greatest impact.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Promising Futures

Our grants build promising futures by helping young people prosper; providing job training and placement; making our educational and justice systems work for everyone; alleviating hunger and homelessness; improving family and child welfare services; and advancing the practice of social work.


Program goal: to ensure that New York City’s public schools provide all students with the opportunity to reach their full potential, and to graduate prepared for college and work. The Trust will support projects that focus on system-wide improvements and reforms that advance equity, narrow the opportunity gap, and create safe and supportive learning environments.

Grants are made to:

Expand opportunities and improve academic outcomes for students who are inadequately served by the City’s public schools for reasons such as poverty, race, disability, lack of English proficiency, and homelessness, with a focus on projects that can be adopted by numerous schools or at the district level. The Trust will support projects that:

  • demonstrate programs and instructional approaches that have the potential to meet the learning needs of underserved students, with support from school leadership and/or the Department of Education;
  • support the adoption of research-informed programs to increase foundational skills in the early and middle grades, such as higher-order reading skills and arithmetic;
  • equip educators to use data to monitor student progress and provide and track targeted interventions;
  • increase access to high-level coursework, Advanced Placement classes, college classes, and early college programs for low-income students of color;
  • expand emotional and social support as well as academic, college, and career advisement, in schools with high numbers of underserved students;
  • increase retention of qualified teachers and leaders in high-poverty schools, including educators and leaders of color, through approaches including coaching, peer-to-peer learning, and communities of practice; and
  • ensure that all families and students have the necessary information and assistance to navigate the school choice process.

Promote policy advocacy and organizing to ensure that local and state policies affecting the programming, personnel, budget, priorities, and leadership of the City’s public schools account for the needs of all students, particularly those who have historically been inadequately served. Priority will be given to projects that:

  • promote the use of high-quality, culturally-inclusive approaches and curricula as well as aligned professional growth opportunities for educators;
  • contribute to safe and supportive school environments, and reduce reliance on suspensions and police intervention.
  • increase access to technology—including computers, broadband accounts, and the skills necessary for their use—for economically-disadvantaged students; and
  • help underserved students and families advocate for school policies that meet their needs.

Collect and share data on the state of the system, service gaps, student and parent preferences, and the potential and actual impact of policy choices. We will support:

  • research projects that seek to answer practice and policy questions with implications for high-quality teaching and learning in the City’s public schools, with a focus on inquiries concerning underserved students.

Because our focus is on system-wide improvement and reform, The Trust will not fund:

  • individual public or private schools, or charter schools; or
  • programs that involve limited numbers of students or schools.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Human Justice
Human Justice

Program goal: to promote a more effective and fair civil and criminal justice system through research and monitoring of practices and procedures in City courts, and advocacy to improve local court practices and procedures.

Grants are made to:

  • Provide advocacy, information, and representation in emerging and/or urgent areas of civil law where other funding sources are limited, including:
    • helping advocates and legal service nonprofits act quickly when laws and policies change; and
    • supporting advocacy and individual, multi-plaintiff, or class-action litigation to protect New Yorkers’ civil rights and make law and public policy more responsive to the needs of the City’s most vulnerable residents.
  • Identify effective ways to help low-income New Yorkers resolve legal problems and thereby improve their quality of life by:
    • testing the effectiveness of different service delivery methods such as brief advice, technology, non-lawyers, and alternative courts;
    • connecting legal help with other desired outcomes such as reducing homelessness and increasing employment and educational opportunities through program evaluation and collaboration with other social service providers; and
    • building the capacity of legal-service nonprofits, individually and as a field, to track and communicate their results.

We do not make grants to provide legal representation in criminal matters.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Human Services
Human Services

Program goal: to mitigate the effects of poverty, increase opportunity through effective services and public benefits, and reduce racial disparities.

Grants are made that:

  • Focus on early intervention and prevention to enable vulnerable children to grow up in stable families and succeed in school and life by:
    • supporting a continuum of early childhood programs from birth to kindergarten;
    • strengthening services for families with children at-risk of foster care placement and for youth already in care;
    • reducing entry and re-entry into the homeless shelter system and increasing long-term housing stability; and
    • increasing access to income supports and healthy, affordable food.
  • Expand proven and promising practices that help those in need lead productive lives by:
    • supporting research, policy, and programs that direct resources to alleviate hunger, homelessness, and poverty; and to move individuals to stability and independence;
    • advocating for wide-ranging, quality services that help poor individuals and families succeed.
  • Build the capacity of government agencies and nonprofits serving low-income New Yorkers by:
    • supporting the coordination and integration of services across City agencies and service providers;
    • training and supporting public and nonprofit human services workers; and
    • advancing efforts that improve the funding, contracting, and support of human services agencies.

Preference is given to projects that go beyond one agency or program to offer sector-wide, systemic, and multi-agency solutions. Whenever possible and appropriate, human services grants are made in partnership with other Trust program areas.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Jobs and Workforce Development
Jobs and Workforce Development

Program goal: to provide more opportunities for New York City job seekers to get trained for work and careers, while helping employers find a ready, willing, and able workforce.

Grants are made to:

  • Develop employer-driven workforce partnerships that link nonprofits, institutions, and businesses in a particular economic sector (such as health care, technology, hospitality) or for a particular constituency or community that:
    • provides training, placement, and post-placement services; or
    • tests new approaches for helping those with serious barriers to employment (such as very low numeracy and literacy skills, no high school degree, ex-offenders, or mental or physical disabilities).
  • Expand the number of industry alliances or workforce intermediaries that provide education and training and improve industry hiring practices, working conditions, and opportunities for advancement.
  • Promote a stronger, more effective workforce development system of services for job seekers in New York City through partnerships with government and capacity building for workforce providers.
  • Advocate for better jobs in particular sectors or through public policies by:
    • working with employers in specific industries to increase the performance and pay of workers; and
    • advancing public policy to ensure fair wages, working conditions, and business practices.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Youth Development
Youth Development

Program goal: to help young, low-income New Yorkers up to the age of 24 overcome obstacles and succeed in life and careers.

Grants are made to:

  • Expand leadership opportunities for disadvantaged young people, especially through organizations that:
    • have a record of creating programs in communities or operate in a minimum of three public school campuses;
    • keep diverse groups of young people engaged;
    • work with young people for at least three years; and
    • create a role for young people to influence public policy, promote racial equity, or achieve meaningful community improvements.
  • Expand or improve employer-driven youth workforce programs that:
    • create career pathways in higher wage sectors (e.g. healthcare, technology, hospitality);
    • expand internships for young people who are attending school, and those who are unemployed;
    • help low-skilled youth get an education, and get job skills by providing training, placement, and post-placement services; and
    • improve the City’s career and technical education system.
  • Expand the capacity of youth development organizations by:
    • supporting intermediaries that provide training, streamline services, improve industry hiring practices, or change public policies; or
    • training staff that work with youth to use best practices in leadership development, employment, and nonprofit management.
  • Promote policy reforms on issues that affect young people, such as:
    • changing New York’s juvenile and criminal justice systems to produce better outcomes for young people; or
    • creating better programs that engage and encourage employers to hire less-skilled youth of color.

We do not make grants to stand-alone college access and preparation programs.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Thriving Communities

We make grants to groups that protect and create affordable housing, promote equity in the arts, improve civic engagement, and protect our environment. We support agencies working on these issues at the neighborhood level, as well as government and nonprofit institutions developing strategies. We also support efforts to improve the functioning of nonprofits and government.

Arts and Culture
Arts and Culture

Program goals:

  • Promote diversity in the arts, and expand access for artists and audiences.
  • Strengthen the management of arts groups serving communities in the five boroughs.
  • Develop talented young historically underrepresented artists and improve arts education in the public schools.
  • Strengthen arts advocacy.

Grants are made in all artistic disciplines to projects that:

  • Help arts organizations attract broader audiences and provide opportunities for artists from diverse backgrounds.
  • Build the capacity of smaller-budget arts groups.
    • Priority is given to non-Manhattan and culturally explicit groups, and to groups with annual budgets of $250,000 to $1 million.
    • Arts service and umbrella organizations are eligible for grants to help small groups.
  • Help cultural groups integrate arts into the curriculum of needy public schools, especially those working outside of Manhattan, and begin programs in schools that lack arts.
  • Advance arts advocacy on critical policy and funding issues.
  • Support the professional development of historically underrepresented young artists pre- and post-college through grants to arts organizations that identify, train, and support young people. (An RFP is issued for this grant program annually.)

We do not generally make grants:

  • To organizations with annual operating budgets below $250,000.
  • For particular presentations, such as plays, exhibits, films/videos, and festivals.
  • For more than one project at a time from an organization.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Civic Affairs
Civic Affairs

Program goals: to ensure a representative political process and improve the function of government by encouraging voting, holding state and local government accountable, and promoting civic literacy for children and new immigrants.

Grants are made to:

  • Encourage voting through projects that:
    • support reform of election administration and voting infrastructure;
    • remove obstacles to voting, especially for groups that have historically not voted; and
    • share nonpartisan information about candidates and elected officials.
  • Make local and state government more accountable through projects that:
    • support efforts to make Albany work better for the citizens of the City and the State;
    • strengthen nonprofit civic groups; and
    • provide citizens and advocates with information and skills needed to promote effective governance.
  • Promote civic literacy in children and civic learning for our newest citizens through projects that:
    • encourage good citizenship among immigrants and their children;
    • enrich civic learning opportunities for children and youth; and
    • target neighborhoods and constituencies with low levels of civic participation.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Community Development
Community Development

Program goal: to build and sustain strong communities and create economic opportunities for residents of low-income neighborhoods.

We support a mix of citywide and local community development activities as well as citywide technical assistance, policy research, and advocacy. We give priority to projects that promote community participation.

Grants are made to:

  • Preserve affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods.
  • Promote strategies for job creation and linking low-income residents to jobs.
  • Develop new sources of capital and innovative community development tools.
  • Enhance the capacity of community development organizations to function effectively.
  • Monitor and document the effects of community and economic development policies on poor communities.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

New York City Environment
New York City Environment

Program goals: to become a climate-smart metropolis; create healthier, more livable communities; and protect urban ecologies.

Grants are made to:

  • Become a climate-smart metropolis by:
    • reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
    • improving the energy efficiency of buildings and various industries;
    • increasing the amount of electricity generated by renewable energy resources;
    • supporting distributed (on-site) generation, establishing microgrids, and modernizing the grid; and
    • encouraging climate resilience and adaptation to climate change particularly in vulnerable low-income communities.
  • Create healthier, more livable communities by:
    • preventing air pollution;
    • reducing the risk of exposure to toxic substances especially for disadvantaged residents;
    • reclaiming and redeveloping brownfields;
    • creating, improving, and enhancing open space and improving access to the City’s waterfronts; and
    • ensuring that environmental benefits and burdens are shared equitably.
  • Protecting urban ecologies by:
    • safeguarding the City’s critical watersheds;
    • preventing pollution of the waterways: and
    • preserving and enhancing wetlands, urban tree cover, and wildlife habitat.

We generally do not fund environmental education projects.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

National Environment
National Environment

Program goals: to mitigate climate change; make communities more resilient to climate change; protect public health from the hazards of toxic chemicals and pollutants; and preserve biological diversity.

Grants are made to promote more environmentally sustainable, resilient, and just communities that:

  • Mitigate climate change by:
    • promoting energy efficiency and alternative sources of energy for buildings;
    • shifting to electric or low-emission vehicles and greater use of mass transit;
    • promoting a smarter, more resilient grid and distributed (on site) generation;
    • reducing emissions from existing fossil fuel-powered facilities and extraction activities; and
    • establishing regional programs, performance standards, and regulations that help reduce emissions.
  • Make communities, especially the most disadvantaged, more resilient to a changing climate by:
    • creating infrastructure that reduces storm-water run-off and absorbs storm surges;
    • protecting shoreline communities by conserving or enhancing natural barriers;
    • encouraging more sustainable building design and land use through policy reforms; and
    • better planning and preparation for weather-related emergencies, especially for low-income and other vulnerable residents.
  • Protect public health from the hazards of toxic pollutants by:
    • supporting targeted scientific research that can be used to develop policy;
    • promoting safer chemical and heavy metal policies and practices, especially for infants, children and other vulnerable people;
    • eliminating toxic chemicals from products through market campaigns focused on retailers and manufacturers;
    • enhancing protections for low-income communities near polluting facilities; and
    • minimizing the hazards of new and expanded fossil fuel extraction on nearby communities.
  • Preserve biological diversity through habitat conservation by:
    • establishing, enhancing, and monitoring wildlife migration corridors; and
    • supporting functional connectivity between fragmented habitat that enables species to move and live safely.

We encourage initiatives that cut across these program areas, especially those focused on smart growth, sustainable agriculture and regional food systems, and sustainable production.

With the exception of those focused on New York State, all projects must benefit more than one U.S. state or territory to be considered.

NOTE TO GRANT SEEKERS: The National and International Environment Program starts the process with an LOI, which can be submitted through the Grants Portal during three-week windows each fall (late September) and winter (late February). These LOIs should be no more than four pages and include a description of the project, proposed activities, and a preliminary budget.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Click here for a recording of the National and International Environment Program’s Information Session.

International Environment
International Environment

Each year, we make only two or three international grants to U.S. organizations that are building the capacity of government, academic institutions, private sector entities, and nonprofits to:

  • Protect biodiversity;
  • Improve environmental health; and
  • Reduce greenhouse gases around the world.

NOTE TO GRANT SEEKERS: The National and International Environment Program starts the process with an LOI, which can be submitted through the Grants Portal during three-week windows each fall (late September) and winter (late February). These LOIs should be no more than four pages and include a description of the project, proposed activities, and a preliminary budget.

Click here for a recording of the National and International Environment Program’s Information Session.


Historic Preservation
Historic Preservation

Program goal: to support preservation in low-income and minority communities and the boroughs outside of Manhattan, and to restore historic places that represent significant and overlooked aspects of City history.

Grants are made to programs that:

  • Foster collaborations between preservation organizations and minority, ethnic, and other community groups.
  • Incorporate preservation efforts into neighborhood revitalization initiatives and increase the preservation expertise of community organizations.
  • Promote the adaptive use of historic buildings for social, cultural, and civic purposes.
  • Help groups develop alternative sources of financial support for capital, maintenance, and repairs.

To ensure maximum impact from our limited funds, we will not make grants directly for maintenance or capital projects. However, The Trust has established a modest fund with the New York Landmarks Conservancy for emergency structural repairs (maximum grant $25,000) for nonprofits that own and operate historic buildings in New York City.

Read the background paper that informed this grantmaking strategy here.

Technical Assistance
Technical Assistance

Program goal: to improve the management capacity of nonprofits and strengthen the sector.

Grants are made to:

  • Advance public and nonprofit service by developing skills and expertise of professionals in the field.
  • Support service and umbrella organizations providing technical assistance to groups of nonprofits.