Community Foundation Awards $863,000 in Grants to Support 91 Local Nonprofits


By Lauren Patterson

With a vision to foster a stronger and more vibrant community, the New Canaan Community Foundation recognizes that effort takes everyone to make a profound difference. At the Foundation’s recent Grant Awards on Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that broad community support was on full display with $863,000 in grants awarded to benefit 91 nonprofit organizations in New Canaan and neighboring communities. This level of investment was made possible by the giving of families across our town, giving nonprofit organizations the opportunity to help further improve the lives of people in our community, as well as our neighbors.

The Foundation’s grants are designed to support high-quality and impactful work. Grants cover a wide range – anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000 this year – reflecting the project’s purpose, the organization’s scale, and our particular role in providing funding support. Grants are intentionally trending up in average size, now about $9,000 across the portfolio, up from around $7,500 last year, to better support these organizations.

Some organizations are long-time partners, dating back decades, close to the Foundation’s 1977 founding. That money helps organizations like the New Canaan Nature Center, who manage forty acres of the town’s property. “The exciting part is we are able to rely on the Foundation for support, so every year we can count on moving that mission forward,” said Bill Flynn, Executive Director of the New Canaan Nature Center. “Every year that we are able to get that grant, we are able to put it into the property.”

Other organizations are new partners; this year, there are seven new grantees. Three new partners work to improve education and opportunities for youth in neighboring communities: the Adam J. Lewis Academy, CT Rise Network, and Wakeman Memorial Association. One new partner in health, the Gracie Fund for Pediatric Cancer, was founded by a New Canaan dad to help fund innovative programs and palliative care for pediatric oncology patients, like those he saw needing support alongside his daughter’s treatment. Two new partners in the behavioral health category, a focus for the Foundation over the last six years based on the level of increasing need, are the Fairfield County Trauma Response Team and the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford, where they are instituting new arts therapy programs.

Grantmaking decisions are based on the needs and interests of New Canaan and its surrounding communities. Approximately half of the dollars will serve New Canaan based organizations or organizations that are regional but an important provider in New Canaan, while the other half of dollars will support critical needs like education, health, and housing in neighboring communities.

This year saw a high number of donor-advised fund co-investments, totaling over $150,000. The Foundation manages donor-advised funds to partner with individuals and families in their philanthropy and, while families can give anywhere in the country, they often choose to give locally and lean on the Foundation’s expertise. This year featured a significant new partnership with the Newcomers Club of New Canaan, which co-invested $72,500 in grants from the proceeds raised by the Club’s biennial New Canaan Holiday House Tour. “NCCF allowed us to lean on their impressive grantmaking infrastructure – we had access to more grant applications than we’ve had in the past, we could trust that we were making informed decisions thanks to their thorough volunteer-run vetting process, and we were able to tap NCCF’s institutional knowledge of the local nonprofit sector and the role each organization plays within it,” said Sicily Bennett, co-Vice President of Community Concerns for the Newcomers Club of New Canaan. “We also know that we can accomplish more together than we can alone, so we were glad to distribute our grants hand-in-hand with the Community Foundation.”

The Foundation is also proud to announce a $100,000 multi-year grant to the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society in support of their new capital campaign, Campus Reimagined. “It’s the recognition of the organization and the role that it plays in the community,” said Nancy Geary, Executive Director of the New Canaan Museum and Historical Society. The funds are going towards the campus’s Rogers Studio. “It’s the first landmark building in New Canaan, it was the studio for the sculptor John Rogers who lived and worked in New Canaan,” according to Geary. “It’s an amazing little building and this money will go mostly towards the exhibition on his life and work.” An additional smaller grant to the organization this year was made in memory of Leo Karl Jr. and his contributions to the community.

Part of what we emphasize at the Foundation is working as one to meet our town’s needs and improve the community. The grant process requires rigorous deliberation, and this year marked a record number of volunteers participating in the grant review process, with over 130 individuals from our community dedicating their time and expertise. It’s a testament to what we can accomplish as a community when we all work together.

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