ACTION REPORT 2017
It is, of course, all about power. Always.
For almost forty years, North Star Fund has stood for the core principle that we exist as a radical redefinition of power. In a city and region deeply stratified across race and wealth, North Star Fund is a community that welcomes everyone and uplifts the work, leadership and power of communities pushed to the margins.
How do we do this? We upend traditional philanthropy practices by vesting the decisionmaking power of our grantmaking into the hands of our community activist members. We direct all of our resources towards building the capacity of locally-led movements: neighbors organizing with neighbors to challenge and change an injustice. These New Yorkers, along the way, are building a movement for justice.
Our donors are partners in social change—there are no passive dollars. Your gifts are an intentional statement to redistribute power, and we invite you to join us in building a crossclass, multiracial movement for a more equitable New York.
Why do we center grassroots organizing? We challenge the status quo not out of anger and militance, but love. In a year where the abuse of power is at the fore of every headline, North Star Fund has reached deeper into our core values.
In this report, you will experience a love that is undeniably and uniquely New York—bold voices speaking bravely from the pages. Creative approaches to the most seemingly intractable problems such as skyrocketing housing costs, education inequity, and worker exploitation. Everyone is welcome in our New York. Everyone is respected, loved, cared for. Everyone has power and the vision to construct a community that meets the needs of every member. Everyone can contribute.
Since I came aboard in March as North Star Fund’s first new executive director in almost 15 years, I’ve had the honor of meeting many of you and learning about your vision. Each of us brings a story to our giving and our activism. I hope to hear your story as I work with all of you to continue to build North Star Fund as New York’s home for organizing.Please consider making a gift to support our work!
North Star Fund is not an endowed foundation. Instead, as a community foundation, we are sustained by the contributions of our fellow New Yorkers. How do people’s contributions turn into grants to support grassroots organizing for New York City and the Hudson Valley?
In our 2017 fiscal year
We pooled these contributions and other resources to make just over
The Movement Leadership Program is a two-year program that grants $50,000 to current and former grantees with a strong track record of success. Each cohort also receives progressive training and technical assistance in new movement platforms, strategies, and tactics, and a lifelong community of peers.
CAAAV is one of this year’s grantees. Executive Director Cathy Dang on their local priorities in this political moment: “Since the 2016 election, we’ve recommitted to our work on the ground more deeply, which means centering the pan-Asian working class and low-income tenants and youth, especially undocumented, queer/trans/gender non-conforming, Muslim, limited-English proficient, and senior community members, to become an organized base and political force. Together, we’re ending landlord harassment and evictions, winning language access, and asserting tenants’ rights to access NYCHA services and repairs. Right now, we’re pushing for community-led planning in the mayor’s rezoning plan, because we have a right to stay in our neighborhoods and control public land.”
Each of these organizations was awarded $50,000:
“With these new resources we have to connect the dots, we can support emerging leaders and get creative.”
—Sandra Oxford, Hudson Valley Grantmaker
In 2017, we piloted our responsive, partnership-based model in New York’s Hudson Valley. We learned from grassroots leaders about the particular challenges to community organizing in the Hudson Valley, including the sheer distance, the lack of access to basic resources and protections, and the need for more social justice funding. And we met the community organizations working to counter the worsening conditions and deepening economic, racial, and gender injustice under the current administration.
Sandra Oxford on the importance of these new grants to support organizing in the Hudson Valley: “Most people have never heard of where I live — it’s a tiny hamlet in the mid-Hudson Catskill area. Through North Star Fund’s grants, there are more resources for our neighbors — rural areas that are more vulnerable, where there’s a lack of support for the leadership of voices of people of color and immigrants. They may not be positioned politically to get what they need or to get noticed. But with these new resources we have to connect the dots, we can support emerging leaders and get creative.”
The inaugural Hudson Valley Momentum grants awarded $10,000 and $15,000 to local organizations that serve, educate, organize, and mobilize their communities:
“Building community and supporting each other is our number one priority.”
—Jonathan Jayes-Green, UndocuBlack Network
In 2017, we awarded $174,000 to 19 new and established Black and multiracial-led organizations fighting police violence and structural racism. Originally designed to support local activism after the murder of Eric Garner, the activist-led Let Us Breathe Community Funding Committee now supports alternative community safety and economic development efforts in Black communities.
Jonathan Jayes-Green on UndocuBlack Network’s New York City Chapter’s focus on survival and wellness: “Building community and supporting each other is our number one priority. Our New York City members are struggling to survive, so the chapter has been focused on sharing skills and talents, as well as creating and steering opportunities to local members. Nationally, we’re prioritizing mental wellness and just launched an initiative. Being undocumented today is trauma and being Black in this country has been trauma since its founding. So we’re prioritizing our holistic wellness because there’s no resistance or liberation if we aren’t well.”
GRANTS UP TO $5,000
“Our farm, mobile market, and cooking show are all platforms for people to celebrate the best possible versions of themselves.”
—Tanya Fields, BLK Projek on their food justice work
Community Food Funders (CFF) supports the growth of an equitable, ecologically sound, and economically robust food system in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. CFF provides information, resources and networking opportunities for funders to invest strategically in growing, processing, and distributing food locally. CFF is not a grant-making entity, it is a network of funders who are active in food system work, and it lifts up leaders in the movement for food justice.
Tanya Fields on the importance of food as a catalyst for organizing: “I’m an unmarried Black mother living in one of the poorest congressional districts. I’m hard working, I contribute, and I’m not a unicorn. In the Bronx, there is less safety, security, and control over our own reproductive and mental health. But our farm, mobile market, and cooking show are all platforms for people to celebrate the best possible versions of themselves. The most important thing in this political climate is Black joy. BLK Projek is creating a space where we can be happy and celebrate our inherent worth, where we can catalyze to organizing. People are excited about the work — we need them to invest in it too.”
Grafton New York’s Soul Fire Farm received the inaugural Community Food Funders Champions Award. The award includes a $5,000 prize.
“Right now we need to connect, instead of everyone just working on their own issue.”
—Kendall Jackman, Giving Project
North Star Fund has launched its first Giving Project, a new model of social justice philanthropy that builds community and grows political and fundraising knowhow. Each member makes their own gift and inspires family and friends to make an investment. The cohort then decides together how to distribute the money as grants, selecting from the current general fund grantee pool. The Resilient Communities Giving Project is a powerful tool for donors of all backgrounds to make an impact together and invest directly in building people power.
“I signed up for the Giving Project because North Star Fund doesn’t just give you money, they help you continue on your mission. My ancestors put me here to help others. I want to be able to look back and say that I did that. I started organizing with Picture the Homeless because I was in a shelter. I know housing issues, but I also need to know who might be able to help when it comes to immigration. Right now we need to connect, instead of everyone just working on their own issue.”
“I see the need for humility, for listening, and being ready to produce a response different than what I have already done.”
—Jonathan Rodkin, Springboard Giving Circle member
North Star Fund has a number of innovative programs for New Yorkers interested in learning about philanthropy. In 2017, the Springboard Giving Circle granted $75,000 to New York City’s grassroots organizations focused on justice. Members made their own gifts, raised money from family and friends, and then met to decide how to invest in New York City’s social justice movement.
Jonathan Rodkin, a Springboard Giving Circle member, talks about truly supporting those who take risks: “I want to be really intentional about listening in this moment and connecting with other people. I see the need for humility, for listening, and being ready to produce a response different than what I have already done. When I look back on this time, I want to be able to say that I put my money where my mouth was and supported those who are being put in heavy risk by the administration. This feels like a moment of truth.”
North Star Fund has a number of grants programs to support different types of organizations that are changing New York. Here are our active grant programs from 2016-2017. To apply for a grant, visit our website.
Innovative Activism grants of up to $8,000 support grantees using arts, culture, and technology as effective strategies to engage and organize communities, shift narratives, and build grassroots power through creative action and alternative practices that strengthen communities.
Grassroots Action grants from $5,000 to $20,000 provide unrestricted support to organizations so they can focus on shifting the balance of power. Like all our grantmaking prgrams, this responsive grantmaking model trusts those addressing the root causes of injustice to lead solutions.
Catalyst grants provide seed funding of $5,000 and $10,000 with annual renewals, technical assistance, and trainings for new organizations and formations to strengthen their foundations and build their capacity and strategies to build a powerful and lasting movement.
Rapid Response are short-term grants to help organizations respond nimbly and effectively to unexpected and urgent needs on the ground and in the halls of government.
The Organizing Resilient Communities Fund was launched after the 2016 election as a dedicated rapid response fund to build the organizing power and resiliency of New York City communities under the new administration.
“I want to rethink laws and helpful legislation that will create opportunities for undocumented youth to achieve their goals.”
—Kevin Duarte, New York State Youth Leadership Council
Donor-advised funds allow individuals or groups of donors to make a one-time contribution or several contributions over time and then decide what organizations and movements the fund will support. The grants are administered by North Star Fund for a small fee, ensuring flexibility while still allowing time for strategic and responsive decisionmaking by the donor.
For contributions of stock or other assets, please get in touch with Deputy Director cori parrish.
A long-term commitment to social justice activism helps to ensure a just future for all New Yorkers. The members of Sharing a Just Future, North Star Fund's legacy circle, have made this commitment by including North Star Fund in their estate plans. Will you join this group of committed activists who have made planned gifts to sustain the movement for years to come?
David Alexander, Nisha Atre and Art Richardson, C. Edwin Baker (In memoriam), Peter Brest, Marjorie Fine, Asa Johnson, Betty Kapetanakis (In memoriam), Lloyd V. Martinez, Kynaston McShine Fund, Elizabeth Melamid (In memoriam), Betty Millard (In memoriam), Arva Rice, Jean Riesman, John Sayles and Maggie Renzi, Merry Tucker, Lise Vogel, Michael Waterman and Yuka Hagiwara, Maggie Williams, Barbara Winslow, Kamryn Wolf.
To sustain ourselves for the long haul, we must come together and celebrate in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “our beautiful struggle.” In addition to programs such as Resilient New York that foster connections and build knowledge, we host an annual Community Gala and other events to bring joy into the movement.