History | Long Island Community Foundation

Nine Decades of Making New York Better

Since 1924, The New York Community Trust, through the generosity of its donors, has built a permanent endowment to support the nonprofit organizations that make our city a vital and secure place in which to live and work. 

The original PS9 on West 84th Street in Manhattan. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
1924: First Gift, First Grant

The New York Community Trust was formed by 11 banks to more effectively make grants from the charitable trusts they held. The first donor created a fund with $1,000 to honor a beloved teacher at PS9. The first award? $20.

Laura Spelman Rockefeller (Wikimedia Commons)
1928: Rockefeller Gives $2.5 Million

The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund was created with $2.5 million from the dissolution of Mrs. Rockefeller’s private foundation. John D. Rockefeller Jr. wanted to help the community foundation take root, and to carry out his mother’s philanthropy in New York.

Joy of Giving
Joy of Giving
William Barstow, founder of the first donor-advised fund.
1931: The Trust Develops First Donor-Advised Fund

William Barstow wanted to give back during his lifetime but didn’t want to create a private foundation; he also wanted to leave a permanent legacy. The Trust created the first donor-advised fund for him. His fund continues to support important work today.

Maramec Springs Park in St. James, Missouri, run by the James Foundation, is known for trout fishing.
1941: The Trust Creates The James Foundation

Lucy Wortham James left her estate to The Trust. As a child, she moved from St. James, Missouri, to New York. Today, her fund supports nonprofit work in New York and maintains her family’s land in the Ozarks through the James Foundation.

1956: Plaques Commemorate Architect, Honor Historic Architecture

Andrew C. McKenzie was a prominent Brooklyn architect. His widow started a fund to honor New York architecture; the Municipal Art Society joined The Trust to recognize landmarks. (In 1969, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission took over the project.)

1975: Fiscal Crisis Response

The City’s debt crisis in the mid-1970’s threatened millions of dollars of contracts to nonprofits. The Trust worked to explain the conditions that led to the crisis; helped nonprofits think about alternative sources of funding; and brought together city and state agencies, nonprofits, unions, and others to try to minimize the effects of the crisis on the delivery of critical social services.

The Trust's suburban divisions.
1975/1978: Suburban Divisions Established

At The Trust, we think keeping philanthropy local helps ensure that our donors’ generosity better meets the needs of their communities. To do that, we set up the Westchester Community Foundation in 1975, then the Long Island Community Foundation in 1978.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
1979: Energy Conservation Fund

As the price of oil skyrocketed, The Trust created the Energy Conservation Fund in 1979 to help plan and finance energy-efficient projects in nonprofit-owned spaces. In 1984, we used a $15 million restitution award from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to create a statewide community foundation nonprofit energy conservation program. The Energy Conservation Fund was spun off and became the Nonprofit Finance Fund, which continues to provide important services today.

1981: Fight for Parity in Education Funding Begins

In 1981, The Trust and Ford Foundation funded research that confirmed that high-need, urban school districts were not funded as well as other districts in New York State. A resulting lawsuit to remedy the situation was unsuccessful. But when a new effort, called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, returned a decade later, The Trust funded that successful effort.

1982: Citymeals on Wheels’ Expansion Grant

The Trust gave Citymeals on Wheels its first grant to deliver weekend and holiday meals to older homebound adults, expanding this crucial service. Trust programs are shaped by the knowledge that one out of five of the city’s older adults live below the poverty level.

1983: Early Private AIDS Research Grant

The Trust was a pioneer among foundations in supporting AIDS research with its grant to the Laboratory for AIDS Research at New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center. The Trust also partnered with Ford Foundation to create the New York City AIDS Fund, to help local foundations respond to the AIDS crisis.

Photo: An international student receiving residency papers with the help of MinKwon Center for Community Action, in Queens.
1986: New Measures to Help Immigrants

The Trust quickly responded to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 by creating the Fund for New Citizens. This fund supported strategies to help nonprofits and governments reach communities of undocumented immigrants during the year-long amnesty period provided by the legislation. The work of helping immigrants continues today.

Van Lier Fellow Jessie Montgomery, a composer. Photo by Ari Mintz for The Trust
1991: Van Lier Fellowship Created

The Trust used Sally and Edward Van Lier’s gift to help historically underrepresented artists through fellowships to arts organizations. More than 2,000 fellows have received $17 million, while museums, theaters, and arts organizations have benefited from the pipeline of Van Lier talent.

A child protests harmful chemicals in children’s toys.
1996: Environmental Grantmaking With a Global Impact

The Henry Phillip Kraft Family Memorial Fund, for environmental issues of national and international significance, was established by a bequest from Mr. Kraft’s daughter. Through it, The Trust has awarded more than $66 million in grants to address climate change, environmental health, and biodiversity.

Job seekers learn to weld through a program supported by the NYC Workforce Funders
2001: Workforce Funders Established

A group of foundations, including The Trust, came together to contribute to an initiative called the New York City Workforce Funders. The group works with nonprofits, city agencies, and businesses to create meaningful job opportunities.

2001-2004: September 11th Fund

Twenty-four hours after the 9/11 attacks, The Trust joined with the United Way of New York to create a fund to help the victims, their families, and the affected community. It raised more than half a billion dollars, which it spent on direct assistance to those affected by the attacks, worker training, healthcare, and other recovery efforts.

Read more about the September 11th Fund here.

A student in a Read Alliance program works on vocabulary and sight words.
A student in a Read Alliance program, supported by our Astor Fund.
2012: Astor Fund Established

After Brooke Astor died, at age 105, the State Attorney General selected The Trust to invest $45 million from her estate in nonprofit groups to improve literacy of New York City children in the early grades.

We helped young immigrants go to school without fear of deportation. Photo courtesy of Internationals Network for Public Schools
We helped young immigrants go to school without fear of deportation. Photo courtesy of Internationals Network for Public Schools
2017: Liberty Fund Supports Measures to Bring New Yorkers Together

After the divisive 2016 presidential campaign, The Trust created a temporary $1 million fund for grants to protect immigrant and LGBTQ New Yorkers from rising hate crimes and rapid changes to federal immigration and health care policies.

Our grants help advocates raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York. Photo courtesy of JustLeadershipUSA
Photo courtesy of JustLeadershipUSA
2018: Age of Criminal Responsibility Is Raised in New York

Years of Trust support for justice reform, paid off when policymakers raised the State’s age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. Now The Trust is working to insure that, instead of teens languishing in adult prisons, they are going to local youth courts and rehabilitation programs.