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The $13 billion Ford Foundation may be best known for its work funding ballet dancers, PBS miniseries and development programs in far-flung places like Nigeria, South Africa, and Bangor, Maine.

But these mega-funders also put some money into local grassroots organizing, and for the first time in recent memory, a slice of that cash may wind up in the hands of New Yorkers.

Earlier this spring, Ford put out the word that it is interested in partnering with other foundations that have experience supporting community organizing in certain regions of the country, namely Illinois, California, New York and certain parts of the South. “Partnering,” in this case, means that Ford supplies the big bucks and the other foundation will re-grant the money to community groups that Ford doesn't usually work with.

So a coalition of New York community organizing funders, including reps from the New York Foundation, North Star, the Jewish Fund for Justice and the Veatch Program of Shelter Rock, is trying to win some of these funds. The coalition is now hammering out their proposal, after first getting input and suggestions from about 30 New York City organizing groups. “People were very willing to help, which is a great sign for the future,” said the New York Foundation's Madeline Lee.

The potential pot isn't huge–only $1 million to $1.5 million–but it still could provide a nice boost for New York's cash-starved organizers. According to a forthcoming report from the National Center for Schools and Communities, the total amount spent in 1997 on organizing in the city was only $4.8 million, almost all of it coming from private philanthropy.

Ford Foundation spokesperson Thea Lurie said the money is earmarked for groups specializing in youth development, refugee rights, human rights, children, youth and families, faith-based development, economic development, education reform, racial justice, and women's rights.