How a Growing Community Funder Gives in Upstate New York

Photo: jiawangkun/shutterstock

Photo: jiawangkun/shutterstock

When we cover philanthropy in New York State, our focus often gravitates to New York City because of the enormous amount of local, national, and international giving taking place there. However, there are some interesting things going on upstate as well.

A case in point is the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties (CFHOC), which is headquartered in the city of Utica and is made up of more than 300 funds, with assets exceeding $140 million. This foundation has been on the local grantmaking scene since 1952, but it has been expanding quite a bit recently.

In the funder’s most recent grant cycle, it awarded nearly $1.5 million to nonprofits and opened six new funds. More than $703,000 of that sum went towards competitive grants to 18 nonprofits. These grants are awarded in CFHOC’s strategic areas of investment, which are education, economic development, health and wellness, and arts and culture. Top-earning recipients include Abraham House for new facility startup funding, Catholic Charities of Herkimer County for a suicide prevention program, and the Utica Center for Development to replace an HVAC system.

Meanwhile, an additional $777,000 went to 54 organizations from the community funder’s donor-advised funds. These grants went to groups like the Oneida Square Project, Players of Utica, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and the Utica Zoological Society.

Something else that stands out about this community foundation is how it continues to create new funds on a regular basis to benefit local residents. Most recently, the Animal Alliance Greater Syracuse Charitable Fund was created to make safer homes for animals, and the Handshake City Fund was created to establish a recycled container marketplace in downtown Utica. Other newly created funds at CFHOC include the Human Society of Rome Campaign and Investment Funds, Rust2Green Utica Fund, and the Utica Pythian Foundation Fund. Back in May, the foundation opened six other new funds as well related to youth, the blind and visually impaired, classical music, animal welfare, and the historical legacy of local Irish culture.

Another interesting way that CFHOC has been giving lately is through its Community Choice Awards. Earlier this year, the funder launched its first-ever $50,000 grantmaking contest that is using public voting to select five local nonprofits to support. Nonprofits in the two counties were invited to submit proposals in the categories of animals, arts and culture, health and wellness, human service, and youth.

In total, CFHOC invests over $5 million in grants each year to communities in Herkimer and Oneida Counties in New York. This is an accessible funder, too. Requests for grants of $25,000 or less, capacity building mini grants up to $10,000, independent senior living grants, and emergency grants may be submitted to the foundation at any time. Other CFHOC grant opportunity have specific application deadlines throughout the year.