Doing Good Right Here

These days, we hear a lot of talk about our city’s different sectors, groups, and communities. But there’s one crucial group that doesn’t often see much light of day: The non-profit sector.

The government — the “public sector”— has an impact on our daily lives in very visible ways: the police cars cruising; the fire engines wailing; the garbage trucks grinding; the subways and buses rumbling; the water and waste water systems flowing, and on and on.

The business community — the “corporate sector” — also visibly influences our lives: the stores in which we shop; the places we work; the banks and offices we go to for financial services, and on and on. But there is a third group — “the non-profit sector” — that also makes a huge difference in our daily lives. And yet, this critical sector is often invisible to us, hardly acknowledged for its importance and for its impact on the quality of our lives and our communities.

My goal in these columns will be to tell the stories of the work of Brooklyn’s non-profits, to help make them more visible and to deepen public understanding of how their work influences our daily lives. I hope also to illustrate the role of community giving and service and show how we can all encourage and support innovation crucial to our individual and collective success.

I am telling these stories because we are part of the tale as well. After nearly a decade of supporting non-profits and initiatives throughout the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan area, we created Brooklyn’s first community foundation, a borough-wide philanthropic institution focused on investing in big ideas on a community scale. In this role, we hope to encourage individuals, families, corporate and public sector donors to give to Brooklyn’s best, most effective non-profits working in important areas of need.

The new Brooklyn Community Foundation is grounded on the solid experience and reputation of the Independence Community Foundation, a private foundation created through a major gift from the historic Independence Community Bank in 1998. We distributed more than $70 million in grants, over two-thirds of which has gone to Brooklyn’s non-profit organizations. Inspired by the brilliant non-profit work being done in Brooklyn, we were also troubled by the small percentage of private and philanthropic resources coming to Brooklyn.

Thus, on the morning of October 1, 2009, at the Brooklyn Historical Society, before an audience of Brooklyn civic leaders, colleagues from the philanthropic community, and leadership from the non-profit community, we assumed the challenge of filling this gap. We created the Brooklyn Community Foundation to “Do Good Right Here.”

Brooklyn today evokes a pride and a passion in its residents that cannot be easily explained. It’s not always an easy place to live and there are many daily struggles that can both build character or undermine it. But I think everyone can agree that it is a remarkable place where people still can see the sky and dream of a better future.

I hope the stories we tell will make you proud and make you smile; or sometimes, they may make you cry or gnash your teeth about the difficulties or unfairness the groups confront every day in trying to “Do Good Right Here.” I look forward to sharing them with you, and hope that you will join our efforts as we work to make Brooklyn even better and even stronger every day.

You can donate to the Brooklyn Community Foundation (45 Main St., suite 409, Brooklyn, NY 11201) by visiting BrooklynCommunityFoundation.org or calling (718) 722-2300.

Editor’s Note: Marilyn Gelber, president of the Brooklyn Community Foundation, has agreed to write a periodical report in this newspaper about the status of philanthropy in Brooklyn, successes, dilemmas and challenges. This is her first contribution.