January 23, 2012: The Daily News | The Union Square Awards have provided vital grants and startup funds to small New York City nonprofits since they were founded in 1998. But now, the board that administers the awards has announced that the program isn’t accepting new applications and will cease to exist within three years.
Almost instantly, New York City nonprofits familiar with the awards—which assisted small organizations with grants of up to $50,000—went into mourning.
“The Union Square Awards were one of the few grant makers who really understood the importance of general operating support,” said Jill Eisenhard, founder and executive director of the Red Hook Initiative, a Brooklyn-based community center that works to address the consequences of intergenerational poverty.
Eisenhard says her group’s Union Square Award was “like getting a stamp of approval that told other funders and individual donors that our social change work was significant and truly making a difference.”
Another award recipient lamented the announcement as “very sad news.” Over the years, the awards have provided funding to numerous New York City nonprofits, including the Groundswell Community Mural Project, the Arab American Association of New York, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality and the New York Taxi Workers Alliance.
Those who have received these “shot in the arm” grants in the past—and those who may have looked to the awards as a potential gateway to growth or sustainability in the future—will surely miss the Union Square Awards. Will another funding organization step in to fill the void? We hope so. –Mike Keefe-Feldman