A Memo from Shawn Morehead, VP for Grants: Why Listening Makes Us Better Grantmakers | The New York Community Trust
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April 17, 2019   |   By The New York Community Trust
A Memo from Shawn Morehead, VP for Grants: Why Listening Makes Us Better Grantmakers

AT THE TRUST: Groups serving young immigrants came together to share expertise. Here, Shawn Morehead hears from Atlas: DIY’s Melissa Escano and Jason Yoon. Photo by Amy Wolf for The Trust

“At The New York Community Trust, we make it a priority to listen to nonprofit organizations and to the people they serve. It makes us more effective in meeting the changing needs of the region. We also listen to our donors, whose charitable priorities are incorporated into every grant we make.

First, organizations can apply for competitive grants all year round. Sometimes we hear the same thing from several nonprofits. They told us that contracting with the City almost always means getting late payments that don’t cover the full cost of services provided. The delays and pay rates wreak havoc on budgets, even forcing some groups to close their doors. In response, we made a series of grants to Human Services Council that has helped improve the contracting process.

Second, we listen to community members. We asked a group of formerly incarcerated advocates for advice when developing our human justice grantmaking strategy. They told us that, in addition to reforming policy, we should focus on changing hearts and minds about those who’ve served time. Once people with convictions are seen as neighbors and friends, it will be easier for them to get the jobs, housing, and services they need to stay out of prison. We’ve since made grants to help change assumptions about those who’ve been convicted while funding campaigns to close Rikers, reform parole, and make higher education more available.

Finally, our grants program is shaped by listening to our donors. The Kraft Fund was created to safeguard the environment: We developed a strategy to preserve wildlife habitat, confront climate change, and strengthen protections against toxic chemicals. Mildred Anna Williams created a fund to improve the lives of young women and girls. Today, we serve them in most areas we fund—from job training and education to health services and leadership programs.

We also want to hear from you, our readers. We welcome your comments and questions. Please e-mail them to aw@nyct-cfi.org.

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