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How the Brooklyn Community Foundation Brings Grantmaking to the People

Wendy Paris

Inside Philanthropy

Selma Jackson, 77, lives in supportive housing in Brooklyn and has been a resident of the borough much of her life. “I know what some of the restrictions are and the challenges of people in the community. I know what the experience is,” Jackson said. “From my perspective, it’s important to have people who have awareness of the needs in the community.” 
Jackson brings her lived experience to the Brooklyn Community Foundation’s Brooklyn Elders Fund Advisory Council, a participatory initiative designed to harness community knowledge in grantmaking decisions and share power with the people touched by the foundation’s work. 
Founded in 2009, the Brooklyn Community Foundation is perhaps best known for its commitment to racial justice and for applying that lens to all its work. But it’s also using the nimbleness that can come with being a relatively new community foundation to pioneer a high-touch form of community-led giving. Its participatory approach empowers residents like Jackson, who, in her role, helps steer the Brooklyn Elders Fund’s $600,000 in annual giving.

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