A guest post by Kerry McCarthy, The New York Community Trust
What does the Media Grants Database offer funders? I decided to find out. In the process, I got a better picture of the role of my foundation in the media landscape, and learned a bit more about how our grantees are faring.
First, a word about us: Founded in 1924 as the City’s community foundation, The New York Community Trust is a leading private funder of City nonprofits. The Trust ended 2013 with assets of more than $2.4 billion in more than 2,000 charitable funds, and made grants totaling $144 million from donor advised, designated, and scholarship funds, as well as our competitive grants program. Nearly one-third of our grantmaking, or $40 million, is from our competitive grants program, which reviews proposals through an open, competitive application process and makes grants from permanently endowed funds established by donors.
Why am I telling you this? Because it sheds light on how our grantmaking is reflected in the Media Grants Database. The Trust appeared as the eighth largest funder in New York City in terms of dollars awarded — we made 177 grants totaling $8.9 million, compared to the largest funder (both in the City and nationally), Ford Foundation, which made 444 grants totaling $129.2 million. It is worth noting, especially for any prospective grantwriters reading this, that our total giving in film, television, radio, and media includes grants made by both donor advisers and our competitive grants program. In other words, the database doesn’t accurately reflect the total of our competitive grants program. [Editor’s note: The database tracks all the grants from the Trust, and does not segment out grants that are made via donor-advised funds.] It was interesting to see that Ford’s giving in this area dwarfs not just our foundation, but all of our colleagues. As the largest New York City foundation committed to media, Ford spends 84 percent more than the second largest funder, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and more than three times as much as the third largest funder, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Film and media make up a small but crucial part of the arts and culture portfolio at The New York Community Trust. Great examples of our work in this arena include Firelight Media, which with help from our Van Lier Fund provided fellowships to minority filmmakers. Also the International Documentary Association, which with assistance from our Elizabeth Meyer Lorentz fund is making grants for full-length documentary films that reflect the spirit and nature of New Deal filmmaker Pare Lorentz. Many of the grantees of our Hive Digital Media Learning Fund, a funder collaborative we started with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and others to help youth learn anytime anywhere, can also be found in the database — Global Action Project, MOUSE, and Museum of the Moving Image. I appreciated that the database gives a quick snapshot of our grantees and identified who else is funding the work. It’s good to know where the money comes from and who future philanthropic partners might be.
Finally, the maps and charts give a nice snapshot of what’s trending in media philanthropy. The data can be broken down into distinct niches, where you can find out who gives and gets the most in any area such as investigative journalism, internet and broadband, or radio. Funding tends to migrate to the coasts, with fewer dollars in the center of the nation, which is to be expected if you think about the location of America’s media capitals. Radio has found new life online mirrored by modest increases in funding. Support for web-based media is up, too. Film and video funding is down. No surprise given larger shifts in the economy.