Empire State of Mind: What’s the quintessential New York foundation?

Back to the song titles for post titles. Great issue of New York magazine this week, all about what’s the quintessential New York…fill in the blank: athlete, musical, building, TV show, etc. They got panels of celebrities and experts in each area to debate; half the fun was reading people debate what criteria to use – tenure, attitude, level of success, etc.

Which got me thinking, what would be the quintessential New York foundation? Of course there’s the New York Community Trust, but a community foundation is too easy. And New York is such a global city – is it Ford, or Rockefeller, players on the global stage? How about Open Society Institute, featuring a living donor who moves between spheres of influence – finance, politics – in a way that resonates with this town that’s the center of so many things? Is it Bloomberg’s anonymous-but-not-really largesse that until last year was funneled through the Carnegie Corporation? Or is it the Brooklyn Community Foundation, the scrappy upstart carving out a space in the shadow of a big kahuna?* Or the North Star Fund, raising money from the community to give to grassroots, social-justice causes, reminding us of the New York that most of its 8 million people inhabit?

There were two criteria that stood out for me from the New York magazine articles: that when you describe it in a single sentence, you have to use the word “New York” (by that light, Seinfeld is the quintessential New York TV show); and/or that it has to be the best at something (by which criterion Babe Ruth is the ultimate New York athlete). For a New York foundation, I’d say that you want something that captures the grandeur and ambition of the city, the sense of being at the center of it all and yet interested in everything. I’ll cop out for the moment and say that I don’t know that there’s one foundation that really captures that right now. If anything, Cory Booker’s efforts in Newark, funded by Zuckerberg’s $100 million announced on Oprah are more of that scope. Maybe Bloomberg when he rolls out his family foundation after leaving office will have that swagger. Once Jay-Z name-drops a foundation in a remix of “Empire State of Mind,” we’ll have our answer….

*Wow, that was a lot of incompatible images in one sentence.

(Disclosure: the giving circle of which I’m a part, the NYC Venture Philanthropy Fund, has had its donor-advised fund housed at both the New York Community Trust and the North Star Fund, and I’ve worked with Ford, Rockefeller, and OSI funding at an intermediary and/or at my current job.)

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One Response to “Empire State of Mind: What’s the quintessential New York foundation?”

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