The Butler Family Fund was established in 1992 by the nieces and nephews of Zella and Jack Butler, philanthropists from New York with a deep commitment to serving society’s less fortunate and creating opportunities for those individuals. Throughout its lifespan as an organization, the Butler Family Fund has been committed to creative and strategic funding, and a thoughtful examination of its governance practices as a family-run organization, allowing it to make the most of its resources.
Its grantmaking has evolved to focus on ending homelessness and reforming the criminal justice system, ultimately “[envisioning] a world where members of our society do not have to choose between housing and food, and where everyone can have faith in our justice system,” according to the fund’s website.
The Butler Family Fund is governed by a Board of extended Butler family members. The fund’s founding generation of first cousins – Zella and Jack Butler’s nieces and nephews – has passed leadership of the organization on to the next generation of family members, who serve in rotating terms as a way to become oriented with the fund’s work and priorities. The fund has a two-person professional staff, Executive Director Martha Toll and Program Officer Ann Morin. To learn more about the governance of the fund, the evolution of its giving priorities, and lessons learned through doing this work as an extended family, read the Butler Family Fund’s report on its first ten years.
Major Program Categories: The Butler Family Fund aims its grantmaking toward homelessness, criminal justice reform and their intersections. In “Butler Family Fund: The First Ten Years,” the Board explains “we do not accept that the wealthiest country in the world must continue to have a homeless population, let alone one that is as seemingly intractable as ours. And we do not accept prison as a substitute for treating mental illness and drug addiction, nor should it be an alternative to housing.”
Rather than focusing on direct services, it supports partnerships and advocacy work in these areas, aiming to impact systems-level change and drive investment of public dollars. The fund embraces creativity and risk-taking, which can be seen in its decision to spend more than the legally required five percent of its endowment each year in grantmaking.
In its grantmaking to end homelessness, the Butler Family Fund supports organizations advocating for housing, employment and ending the cycle of homelessness for youth, with an eye toward youth aging out of the foster care system.
In 2016, grants that tackled youth homelessness included $22,500 to Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) to support youth aging out of foster care, and $25,000 to A Way Home America “for a collaborative national movement to end youth homelessness in the U.S. by 2020” according to the fund’s grants database.
Criminal justice reform has a particular focus on tackling extreme policies within the justice system, such as abolishing the death penalty and ending juvenile life sentences without the possibility of parole. The fund is also committed to tackling the intersection of homelessness and criminal justice.
Recent grants for juvenile justice advocacy and reform have included $15,000 in general support to the nationally focused Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, and $15,000 for “advocacy to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 in Texas” to Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.
How to Apply: The fund does not accept unsolicited proposals at this time.
Name of Foundation: Butler Family Fund
Location: Washington, D.C.
Coverage Area: National, with emphasis on communities with connection where Board members live and work
Subject Area: Homelessness, Criminal Justice Reform
Total Assets: $10,892,678 (2015)
Last Year Total Grants Paid: $922,700 (2015)
Recent News and Grantmaking: