Meeting the Moment | AR2020 - The New York Community Trust
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Lorie Slutsky, NYCT President 

Philanthropy and the work of foundations is sometimes criticized for its slow response and almost immutability. Community foundations like the New York Community Trust are really built for crisis response. It’s kind of in our DNA. It’s what we’re made of. You could ask why and I’ll tell you there are five reasons. First and foremost, when a sudden catastrophe hits we’re here, we’re on the ground, we have resources at the ready. People forget that even when crisis hits – it takes time to organize a fundraising drive, it takes time to collect people’s donations, it takes time to train staff to figure out what your response really needs to be – and community foundations have both at the ready, already have financial resources and money, and already have trained staff. And I often think about the AIDS crisis, which was one of our early crisis responses.

Lorie Slutsky:

People don’t realize it took 10 years before AIDS was a category that individuals and foundations were comfortable funding. Either just because they were slow to respond to the problem or because there was a stigma. But whatever the reason, it took a fair amount of time and what you don’t have in a crisis is time. So the fact that you can move very quickly with resources, with trained staff, is quite extraordinary. The second reason community foundations like The Trust are really well-suited to respond is unlike places like the Red Cross or others that have to sort of go to the disaster. When disaster strikes in New York City, we’re here, when disaster hits Long Island or Westchester, we’re here. We have staff, we know the communities, we know the players, we know the nonprofits and we can fairly quickly apply those resources to smart strategies to get money out into the community, to deal with the crisis at hand.

Lorie Slutsky:

The third reason that I think community foundations like The Trust are really built for crisis response is that we really believe in multiplying our impact through collaborative grantmaking. And collaborative grantmaking takes trust and relationships. Both of which the New York Community Trust has. We’re here, we’ve worked with our colleagues in philanthropy, we’ve worked with nonprofits, we’ve worked with government, and we can fairly quickly get our head and hands around what needs to be done, who’s the best person to do it and then how can we get resources to those people to act quickly?

Lorie Slutsky:

The fourth thing that I think makes us very suited to crisis response is that – it’s going to sound odd but, crises have a timeline. There’s an immediacy to a crisis. Today we’re going to feed hungry people who don’t have food to put on the table for their kids, but tomorrow we’re going to look back at the food delivery system and figure out whether it did what it was supposed to do. Whether there are smarter ways we can build that so the next crisis or the next need for food distribution works better, smarter.

Lorie Slutsky:

And then the last reason, the fifth reason that I think we are really well-suited to respond to crisis is because we can continue to do our regular work. The other needs in New York City don’t stop because there’s a pandemic. They don’t stop because there’s a Superstorm Sandy. There are needs to improve education to help our school children, to deal with immigration issues … Those issues don’t stop because there’s a crisis. They continue and we have the ability to move both towards the crisis and response and continue the long-term work that I think makes a community foundation like ours so effective.