Our new strategic plan comes at a time of sustained institutional growth, changing executive leadership, ingrained community challenges and promising new regional opportunities. We seek to grow and deepen our existing work and take on new opportunities that materially improve our region through inclusion, civic and community engagement, and growth in local philanthropy.

Plan Overview

We envisioned growing our role as an anchor institution that is a ‘philanthropic force for good’ for our region. Our institutional capacity grew dramatically and new, specific objectives for community-level change were undertaken. Our assets grew from $226 million to nearly $400 million, with record years for new gifts, more than $90 million in grants made and 246 new funds created. We became the operational home of Say Yes Syracuse, launched the Black Equity & Excellence Fund with a $1 million commitment to Black-led and –governed organizations, created CNY Vitals, our region’s new community data and indicator hub, and launched a $2 million campaign to end childhood lead poisoning through LeadSafeCNY.

We undertook a process of discovery and reflection to assess our current position and define our aspirations for the future. We conducted multiple feedback efforts, including surveys of our donors, our grantees, and outreach to key friends, partners and community allies. We heard clear support for the Community Foundation’s continued growth to meet challenges prevalent in our region, but to do so with a bolder and more amplified voice and vision.

Our board and staff took a journey of discernment by examining issues of racial equity and other forms of systemic bias. Our new plan infuses specific action steps and measurable goals, reflected in our new Racial Equity Values & Commitment, to address issues of equity across all of our portfolios of work. We believe that equity is imperative to our work because removing structural barriers will make our community investments more impactful and effective. A commitment to equity in everything we do is good stewardship for the resources that have been entrusted to us.

We are not the same organization we were in 2017 when we adopted our last plan. Our new plan is a reflection of these changes. This led us to update our mission, vision and pledge to incorporate our institutional commitment to equity and our aspiration to reach out to and engage civically-minded people across our region. You can view the new language below.

Our plan reflects both new goals and deepening commitments to existing work. We will use new trust-based and participatory grantmaking programs to engage the community more broadly in our grants and special initiatives. We will also continue to scale up our investments in such signature programs as LeadSafeCNY, the Black Equity & Excellence Fund, CNY Vitals, which just released a new racial equity section, and our 5forCNY campaign to grow permanent charitable resources to support our community’s current and future needs. For the first time, we define a plan for leveraging our growing asset base for community change through local impact investments. Ultimately, our new plan will take us through the celebration of our centennial in 2027 – marking 100 years as a philanthropic institution that is Leading for All Central New York communities.

New Mission, Vision & Pledge

Our mission is to foster a thriving and equitable Central New York region by leading and inspiring a community culture of giving, celebrating legacy and stewarding charitable resources for today and tomorrow.

We envision Central New York as a vibrant community with equal access to opportunity for everyone. Future generations will proudly inherit a hopeful, just region where generosity and collaboration ensure prosperity, well-being and lasting impact.

We pledge to be a bold, courageous and enduring partner in philanthropy, investing in the people and potential of Central New York. We commit to collaborating with and giving voice to the individuals and organizations that seek to create opportunity and catalyze change. Our intentional community engagement and knowledge-sharing builds trust-based relationships that will transform the region. We open our doors to everyone and anyone who aspires to build upon the contributions of the past and present to shape our community’s shared future.

Our equity values are infused into our strategic planning goals, programmatic design and workplace culture, and are expected to evolve over time to address changing needs. We hold ourselves accountable for adhering to these values through measurable, data-driven goals and metrics found within our strategic plan and monitored by our board of directors.

View Values & Commitment

Our Strategic Plan Pillars

The degree to which we can make a positive contribution to Central New York is dependent upon our ability to be responsive to the region’s needs, play a strategic leadership role and vigilantly assess impact. We aspire to build on our recent successes and push ourselves toward more ambitious diversity, equity and inclusion goals that serve all members of our community. We will engage more deeply in projects and initiatives that have already yielded results and vigorously pursue solutions to new community needs that emerge. Each of our activities will align with at least one of the following:

  1. Support new ideas and scale up projects with proven impact. We will operate a dynamic and responsive grants program that provides nonprofits and visionary leaders with the resources they need to create community impact. Our efforts will be focused on the various local communities that are impacted by systemic racism or other bias as well as organizations that seek to enhance their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. To do this, we will:
    • Engage in active dialogue with organizations to help transform their creative ideas into action.
    • Work alongside our grant recipients to refine the ways that we measure community impact.
    • Improve grant accessibility and strive for service excellence, including streamlining the grant application process and applying lessons learned based on evaluation results.
    • Foster opportunities for multi-year and operational funding for organizations and projects that align with deployable funds or our strategic priorities.
  2. Strengthen nonprofits and prepare their leaders for the future. We will invest in our nonprofit partners by helping them secure the tools and knowledge needed to achieve their missions. To do this, we will:
    • Provide grants and educational opportunities that address the professional and organizational development needs of our region’s nonprofit sector
    • Cultivate learning communities for nonprofit and grassroots leaders to share new approaches and implement best practices with others in their fields
    • Actively reach out to and engage organizations that serve communities that have been impacted by systemic racism or other bias
  3. Build knowledge, relationships and trust. We will invest in organizations led by and serving communities that have been impacted by systemic racism or other bias and serve as a convener and resource for residents, leaders and programs that advance their work. To do this, we will:
    • Scale up and build the capacity of Black-run organizations through a renewed funding commitment to the Black Equity & Excellence Fund
    • Support multi-year funding for projects designed with community members that data shows are most impacted by an issue, including the following key groups: (1) Latino community members; (2) Asian American/Pacific Islander community members; (3) community members with disabilities; (4) Indigenous community members; and (5) LGBTQIA+ community members
  4. Drive strategic initiatives that address systemic community issues. We will invest in collective impact work bringing together people and organizations sharing common priorities and coordinate efforts that create tangible, measurable and equitable community change. To do this, we will:
    • Recommit to multi-year funding of our strategic work addressing childhood lead poisoning, poverty and literacy across the lifespan
    • Create opportunities for change, dialogue, and policy improvements using the power of community data
    • Seek partnerships and co-funding with government entities, funders and stakeholders to leverage the impact of our investments

We believe that communities are stronger when all members have opportunities to participate and thrive, and the same is true of community-based philanthropy. We will focus on inviting and growing participation from existing and historically excluded donors, with an emphasis on attracting and sustaining high-impact gifts and relationships. We will share opportunities for all donors to support grantmaking work that addresses inequities.

  1. Develop, broaden, and deepen relationships among donor prospects and gatekeepers. We have established relationships with an extensive number of donors and gatekeepers in the last five years and have great potential to grow by leveraging our charitable planning services and strategic initiatives in our community. Our focus will be to provide quality and impactful philanthropic services to keep our donors engaged to meet their charitable objectives. We will be intentional in our development outreach work to attract and engage more diverse donors with focus on strategic initiatives in the community. Our focus with our current/prospective donors and advisors will be on:
    • Sharing impactful ways to give including our strategic initiatives and community support
    • Connecting with diverse community residents and institutions
    • Learning about and supporting giving in diverse groups
  2. Deliver high-quality donor legacy planning. We seek to sustain an inclusive donor-centered program that focuses on documenting the personal stories and charitable aspirations of those who choose us as the home for their legacy. We will broaden this work and look forward to a day when the legacies and donors whose stories we steward are as diverse as the community we serve. We lead with listening and focus on storytelling as a way to promote empathy, understanding and connection to charitable impact. These plans will be considered treasured community assets that honor and preserve the memories and lived experiences of the people who created them. We have observed an increase in trust when we engage more meaningfully with our donors to capture their stories. Therefore, we will:
    • Continue to refine our legacy planning offerings to foster opportunities for new relationships
    • Develop pathways for inclusive and accessible legacy giving
    • Connect donor stories and experiences to community impact
    • Strengthen opportunities for meaningful lifetime engagement and education about our community needs
  3. Provide high-quality philanthropic services. We will continue to assess and refine our policies and procedures, in collaboration with other departments, to ensure accuracy, efficiency, clarity and ultimately an exceptional and fulfilling experience for our donors. We will strive to balance our internal capacity with requests from external audiences to further build our reputation as a reliable and convenient resource for charitable individuals, capitalizing on our strengths: personalized service, staff expertise and knowledge of community needs. We will also continually improve our data collection, management and analysis in support of our customer service efforts and the highest and best use of our staff time. We will prioritize finding new ways to use technology to gather and present data that we believe has value for our organization and our donors, resulting in greater confidence in our systems and greater giving. We will focus on:
    • Strengthening systems that support the donor experience
    • Collecting and presenting data that aligns with the organization’s equity goals

We believe that the Community Foundation’s positive impact in Central New York is predicated on sustaining its organizational strength through the prudent management and investment of its resources; amplifying the deployment of its assets for impact through financial strategies that support local communities; and enhancing its commitment to equity through its investments, staff, board and operations. To achieve this goal, we will focus on the following:

  1. Sustain organizational strength through the prudent stewardship of resources. Growth in our assets strengthens our mission and supports tangible community impact by increasing dollars available to support our grants and initiatives. We know that investment in our people, operations, systems and technology are critical to our ability to have a long-term impact for the benefit of our region. So that we can be here for good and in a meaningful way, we will:
    • Invest our charitable resources to achieve results that grow our general funds over time.
    • Abide by a spending policy discipline for long term and endowed funds that preserves the effective purchasing power of our resources and grows our capacity to support grants and operations.
    • Invest in our people to retain talent and in our operations, systems and technology to sustain our institutional capacity.
  2. Cultivate impact investments that support community change, nonprofit capacity, and the values and impact areas embodied in our mission and vision. As the region’s largest source of philanthropic capital, we are called upon to prudently deploy our financial resources through strategies that support Central New York communities, our nonprofit partners and our values framework. Local impact investments will leverage our community impact in ways we could not achieve through grants or other leadership efforts alone. To achieve this result, we will:
    • Seek to increase the Sustainable Responsible Impact Investment pool to achieve strong risk-adjusted returns in investments that have a positive impact on the world.
    • Deploy funds to local impact investments that align with our community investment strategies and civic leadership efforts.
    • Seek co-investment and partnerships to advance our local impact investment program.
  3. Infuse and sustain our commitment to equity through our operations, investments, staff and board governance. We are emphasizing equity internally through our operations, staff, investments and board governance. This is necessary in order for us to effectively work toward an equitable Central New York community. To continue and deepen our progress in this regard as a component of a broad institutional effort that creates economic opportunities for all communities, we will:
    • Continue our commitment to having a board and staff that reflect the communities we serve.
    • Expand our deployment of operational resources to vendors that reflect communities that have been impacted by systemic racism or other bias.
    • Measure the diversity of the managers of our investment pools with a goal of matching or exceeding our foundation peers.

The Community Foundation realizes that offering scholarships alone is not enough to persuade high school students into believing that a college education is a clear pathway to their future career endeavors. Leveraging all resources available to students will increase their chances of enrolling in a college or university and successfully earning a degree. Nevertheless, the ongoing impact of the pandemic on learning, student success, and matriculation to and graduation from college remains a distinct challenge for students and their families. As the largest provider of scholarship support in our region, we will seek to see students enter and complete college while bolstering our relationships with students and families to help advance student success.

  1. Leverage the Say Yes Compact and Network to support student success. We will promote scholarship incentives built up through more than a decade of local investment and engagement with institutional partners. To assure that resources are deployed to create meaningful impact for students, we will:
    • Connect with high school students and College Compact partners through college fairs, admissions networks and other opportunities in school buildings
    • Engage new SCSD college counsellors as a key referral and support network
    • Leverage local and national resources through FAFSA completion nights and SAT prep events
    • Use online mechanisms (portals, scholarship platforms) to efficiently college information
  2. Innovate resources for Say Yes students. We know that scholarships alone are not enough to assure student success. Student and family situations are often barriers for students fully accessing educational opportunities. To nurture a holistic approach to student support and increase rates of matriculation and graduation, we will:
    • Provide funding to expand mentoring opportunities for Say Yes students
    • Engage with Say Yes alumni to create a support network for students
    • Address gaps in student support and scholarship availability for student populations impacted by distinct challenges including the pandemic, immigration status, or ability limitations
  3. Engage and connect with Community Foundation award scholars. The Community Foundation administers more than 90 distinct scholarship funds for many different purposes, benefitting students across a five-county area that includes many rural communities. As we deliver high quality scholarship administration, we seek to move from being primarily focused on scholarship transactions to building supportive relationships with our student award scholars, particularly those who benefit from four-year grant awards. To deepen our impact for the benefit of student award scholars, we will:
    • Survey student award scholars to gain a better understanding of their needs and issues
    • Explore creative opportunities for student support, potentially including emergency funds and student networks
  4. Foster and sustain a college-going environment through collective action. Central New York benefits from a robust ecosystem of organizations dedicated to fostering a college-going culture. We seek to strengthen the ties between these organizations by serving a central support role in bringing organizations together, sharing data and working towards collective action and outcomes. To move our community forward collectively, we will:
    • Re-start the Syracuse College Attainment Network (SCAN) as a vehicle for collective and collaborative community goal setting and impact
    • Connect students to local college access organizations

Communications plays a key role in establishing recognition and confidence, which is integral to inviting community members to our table for the betterment of Central New York. To achieve this, we set forth the following strategic priorities:

 

 

  1. Establish the Community Foundation as an inclusive partner in charitable giving and nonprofit support. In our continued effort to establish ourselves as the region’s central resource for charitable giving and community investment, we seek to build relationships with all community members, especially those who have felt previously disconnected from our work. To do this, we will:
    • Emphasize equity as a Community Foundation priority and invite community members to follow along in our progress while joining us in making change.
    • Invite organizations to participate in our grantmaking and programs, with an emphasis on building trust-based relationships with those led by and serving historically underfunded communities.
    • Encourage those who love and support the community to learn how our charitable giving options can meet them where they are to make the greatest possible impact.
    • Inspire residents with a strong CNY connection to extend their current charitable support beyond their lifetimes through estate giving and legacy planning.
  2. Call on residents to participate in and support our programs and initiatives for the betterment of Central New York. Our strategic initiatives and funding opportunities offer the opportunity for people of all backgrounds to take an active role in the work that we do, either through monetary support or action. To establish this, we will:
    • Appeal for contributions from those committed to progress toward initiatives or funding imperatives we designate as addressing the region’s most vital needs.
    • Demonstrate the impact of our grants, initiatives, programs and donors’ generosity through effective data visualization and storytelling.
    • Invite residents, principally those from historically excluded communities, to participate in funding projects and initiatives designed to make change in the issues they care about.
    • Encourage high school students to go to college with the help of Say Yes Syracuse and participate in networking opportunities over the course of their college career.
    • Raise awareness of a robust impact investing program.
  3. Use the power of communications for social good. In addition to being supportive of the Community Foundation’s core offerings, communications itself can serve as a social impact tool that influences policymaking, increases community knowledge and inspires change. To impact the community, we will:
    • Amplify voices to give power to those most affected by the issues in our community and to the organizations, groups and individuals working hard to make a difference.
    • Serve as a thought leader by disseminating data on key issues through issue papers and community indicators that highlight our region’s challenges and encourages community members to take action.
    • Advocate on mission-aligned issues that are critical to supporting our initiatives.

News & Stories

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Publications June 14, 2024

Family Philanthropy: Preparing the Next Generation for Success

Hear from Justin Miller, National Director of Wealth Planning at Evercore Wealth Management, on the ...

News Releases June 13, 2024

LeadSafeCNY: A Look at our Neighborhood Investments

A new heat map demonstrates the impact of our neighborhood investments so far through the ...

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Stories June 5, 2024

Delivering Hope through a Movement for Food Justice

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, InterFaith Works of Central New York began distributing ...

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Blogs May 13, 2024

Housing Designed for Syracuse Neighborhood Needs

Katie Weaver, director of development of A Tiny Home for Good, explains how A Tiny ...

Blogs May 13, 2024

Breaking the Cycle Using Sports as a Powerful Vehicle for Positive Change

Serving over 90 youth representing over 35 countries, Tillie’s Touch is a space where all ...

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Topics April 23, 2024

What We Are Up To: CNYCF Staff Updates

Learn about the expertise and passionate commitment amongst our team members as they drive positive ...

Publications April 22, 2024

Beyond Great Expectations: An Unexpected Gift with Unending Impact

The unexpected and unrestricted nature of Lucy’s bequest echoes the quiet yet profound impact individuals ...

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Publications April 22, 2024

The Koerner Family Funds: Like Parents, like Daughters

Education was a cornerstone for the Koerner kids, instilled by their successful and civic-minded parents. ...

Cortland Bright Ideas 2024
News Releases April 17, 2024

$55,000 In Grants Awarded to Cortland County Nonprofits

Applicants were invited to submit a ‘bright idea’ for enhancing their nonprofit and explain how ...

hand holding growing money
Publications June 14, 2024

Family Philanthropy: Preparing the Next Generation for Success

Hear from Justin Miller, National Director of Wealth Planning at Evercore Wealth Management, on the ...

News Releases June 13, 2024

LeadSafeCNY: A Look at our Neighborhood Investments

A new heat map demonstrates the impact of our neighborhood investments so far through the ...

People gardening
Stories June 5, 2024

Delivering Hope through a Movement for Food Justice

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, InterFaith Works of Central New York began distributing ...

Community Voices header image
Blogs May 13, 2024

Housing Designed for Syracuse Neighborhood Needs

Katie Weaver, director of development of A Tiny Home for Good, explains how A Tiny ...

Blogs May 13, 2024

Breaking the Cycle Using Sports as a Powerful Vehicle for Positive Change

Serving over 90 youth representing over 35 countries, Tillie’s Touch is a space where all ...

What we are up to staff image
Topics April 23, 2024

What We Are Up To: CNYCF Staff Updates

Learn about the expertise and passionate commitment amongst our team members as they drive positive ...

Publications April 22, 2024

Beyond Great Expectations: An Unexpected Gift with Unending Impact

The unexpected and unrestricted nature of Lucy’s bequest echoes the quiet yet profound impact individuals ...

Koerner Family outside
Publications April 22, 2024

The Koerner Family Funds: Like Parents, like Daughters

Education was a cornerstone for the Koerner kids, instilled by their successful and civic-minded parents. ...

Cortland Bright Ideas 2024
News Releases April 17, 2024

$55,000 In Grants Awarded to Cortland County Nonprofits

Applicants were invited to submit a ‘bright idea’ for enhancing their nonprofit and explain how ...

View More