January 17, 2023

Robin Hood Provides Relief to New Yorkers During Crisis and Beyond

National Philanthropic Trust’s donors recommend thousands of grants every year. Grants In Action highlights the breadth of causes and organizations NPT’s donors are supporting with grant recommendations from their donor-advised fund accounts. 

Author Aly Semigran, Content Specialist

Since 1988, nonprofit Robin Hood has been helping create solutions to get low-income New Yorkers the assistance and support they need in order to break the cycle of poverty. By partnering with hundreds of nonprofits throughout the city, Robin Hood has been able to bring much-needed relief for nearly half a million people living throughout the five boroughs.

In their 35 years of work, the organization has seen the city and its residents’ resilience and fortitude through tragic events like September 11, Hurricane Sandy and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization reinstated relief funds in early 2020 as COVID-19 began to shut down the city. Robin Hood’s Chief Knowledge Office and Senior Advisor to the CEO Emary Aronson says that the pandemic “shined a light on how broken our systems were: food, health, housing, employment, education.”

Getting to the root of these issues, and helping find solutions for the most vulnerable populations, she explains, “is at the heart of what Robin Hood does.” In the first 18 months of the pandemic, the organization raised and allocated $80 million in a separate COVID-19 relief fund.

Donor support from DAFs and other forms of giving fuel the programming and partnerships at the heart of New York City’s Robin Hood.

They also “reduced friction for funding” so that organizations could move quickly to get things like cash assistance to those who needed it most. “When something like COVID happens, you can’t absorb any more shock,” Aronson explains. In 2021, Robin Hood’s Poverty Tracker reported that direct cash assistance provided through the CARES Act was a “lifeline” to millions of New Yorkers during the pandemic. Robin Hood itself provided New Yorkers with an additional $42 million in direct cash aid.

With the help of donors, the organization granted $171 million to New York City organizations fighting poverty in 2021. Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are an “integral part of Robin Hood’s giving infrastructure,” according to Director of Development Operations Lisa Careccia.

Donor support from DAFs and other forms of giving fuel the programming and partnerships at the heart of the organization. “Because our board covers 100% of operating expenses, every dollar goes directly to programs that fuel New Yorkers’ journeys to permanently escape poverty,” says Careccia.

“We are very conscious of donor intent,” Aronson adds. Robin Hood is “very flexible and responsive to what their interests are,” whether that’s supporting New Yorker’s basic needs, funding academic research, piloting and scaling targeted interventions or supporting on-the-ground organizations across the city.

“We’re talking about our neighbors in need,” Aronson says, adding, “That motivation goes into our grantmaking and fundraising. People are caring for one another, and we’re the vehicle for it.”