BCF Safety Net Fund Background

With roots in the community that go back to the 19th century, the Brookline Community Foundation (BCF) has a long history of meeting the needs of Brookline residents, providing aid when and where it is needed most. One of our cornerstone efforts, the BCF Safety Net Fund, provides critical, urgent assistance, helping neighbors in crisis with rent, food, utility bills and other acute financial needs. 

Over the past several years we’ve seen an increasing need for support from the BCF Safety Net Fund as many of our residents face unemployment or underemployment, stagnating or declining wages, a scarcity of affordable housing and rising costs for child care and health care. According to BCFs recently published report Understanding Brookline: A Report on Poverty, Brookline's poverty rate from 2000 to 2010 has increased from 9% to 13%, with growing poverty rates in all segments of the population. And, almost one-third of Brookline residents live in households below the 300% poverty threshold, a marker of economic insecurity.

Safety Net Fund Impact Stories 

A senior in transition: An elderly woman lost her husband, and although she was due to receive a subsidy on her apartment, her rent would not adjust until the following month. The BCF Safety Net Fund paid the difference between the former rate and new, more affordable rent, preventing possible eviction.

 A couple with disabilities: A couple, who is low-income and disabled was unable to heat their home during a period of sub-zero weather and had resorted to using the oven to warm themselves. The BCF Safety Net Fund covered the costs for an emergency delivery of home heating oil.  

Neighbors who are hungry: With evidence of growing food insecurity in town, the Brookline Food Pantry opened a second site in 2015. The BCF Safety Net Fund provided funding to purchase fresh and frozen food for the launch of the second site. 

Click here to donate to the BCF Safety Net Fund.

Council on Foundations National Standards

BCF is confirmed by the Council on Foundations as operating in compliance with National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations.

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Board President Frank Steinfield: Making Brookline a Great Community For All 

In 2005, Frank Steinfield attended his first event at the Brookline Community Foundation (BCF). A long-time member of the Lawrence School’s Extended Day Board, Frank had come to appreciate the important role played by nonprofits in Brookline and by the local foundations that make their work possible. Having spent most of his career on the receiving end of grants in the child welfare field, Frank saw a relationship with BCF as a chance to experience philanthropy from the inside and to gain a greater understanding of the factors that help a community thrive. 

Frank was impressed right away by how the foundation was able to pull together so many resources across Brookline, connecting its dedicated board, partners, and donors with nonprofits poised to make an impact. He says, “That coming together of expertise, enthusiasm, and a variety of talents seemed to me like a great opportunity to contribute to the quality of life in Brookline.” 

“Community foundations can do some things that government and individuals can’t do alone,” Frank explains. “They have the freedom to step back and look at a lot of different aspects of town life.” 

This unique position allows BCF to provide vital support to local nonprofits, including small organizations that serve distinctive but important needs—the type of programs that might slip under the radar of a larger philanthropy. “We’re able to support them in a way that keeps them running, builds their capacity, and helps them coordinate with other organizations,” Frank explains. 

One of the most exciting accomplishments during Frank’s tenure has been the growth of the BCF Safety Net Fund, which has more than doubled in size, providing much-needed assistance to neighbors in crisis. BCF provided the town with a clearer picture of these financial needs through its recent Understanding Brookline reports. “Seeing how many residents live at or near poverty came as a surprise to many,” Frank says. It’s been a powerful call to give. “The fact that Brookline can support residents from all types of economic backgrounds is a huge asset. It reflects a place that is vibrant, diverse, and welcoming.” 

Frank encourages Brookline residents who have yet to connect with BCF to take the plunge, attesting that donors and partners alike can be “confident that BCF is going to find out where the need is greatest and then dedicate funding and expertise to promote good outcomes. We’re great stewards.”  

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