Just one month after its official launch, The Prosperity Foundation — a New Haven-based philanthropic group aimed at strengthening African-American communities — is expanding its reach statewide.
The Foundation, headed by prominent funeral home owner Howard Hill, began as a New Haven-specific initiative known as the Urban Prosperity Fund that invested in New Haven’s African-American community. Now known as TPF, Hill’s group hopes to tackle the social and economic challenges facing African-Americans across Connecticut by cultivating a statewide philanthropic network. TPF held its inaugural reception at The Study at Yale hotel on Sept. 29, inviting prominent business leaders such as keynote speaker JoAnn Price, the founder of a woman-led asset management firm known as Fairview Capital Partners. As TPF spreads beyond the Elm City for the first time, TPF will host a similar event at Fairfield County’s Stamford Marriot.
“We want to raise awareness about the potential role that philanthropy can play in strengthening the black community and addressing education, health and economic development,” said David Maurrasse, a philanthropic expert hired by TPF to advise the group’s outreach strategy.
He said TPF aspires to eventually function as a community foundation — a grant-making public charity — drawing funds from an official endowment.
TPF Vice President and Principal of New Light High School Larry Conaway said TPF empowers African-Americans by teaching them the value of philanthropy in community development. Already, co-founder Nancy Hill said, TPF has received its first donation. Hill did not disclose the donor or amount. But multiple members of the African-American community have inquired about donating, she said.
“People are talking. It’s generating buzz, and that’s what we want,” Hill said.
Maurrasse said there are many ways prospective donors can contribute to TPF. Donors can contribute directly to the fund or do so as a group as part of a giving circle, which allows multiple donors to pool funds. Donors can also oversee the allocation of their money by creating a donor-advised fund.
Though TPF is still in its infancy, Maurrasse said its first event, which boasted an audience of 60, successfully opened a line of communication between TPF and potential donors. He said TPF will begin to distribute funding once giving circles and other mechanisms for managing donations are established.
TPF plans to open grant applications for community organizations in the next few months, Maurrasse said.
Maurrasse said TPF also aims to connect people interested in supporting the African-American community with each other. Once TPF perfects its structure in Connecticut, the group will establish itself in other states in order to serve African-Americans nationwide, Maurrasse said.
“With all the negativity in the country, we’re trying to be a shining light and do something positive,” Conaway said. “To do this work is an honor.”
TPF received a roughly $300,000 startup grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in spring 2014.