1947

Jessie Smith Noyes

Founding

The Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation was established by Charles F. Noyes as a memorial to his second wife, Jessie Smith Noyes. Charles (1878–1969) was an early investor in New York City skyscrapers who sold the Empire State Building in 1951 for the then-largest price in real-estate history, and who in 1959 turned over all of the stock in his company to its employees.

Jessie (1885–1936) was a champion for racial equality and an advocate for religious tolerance who served for years as vice president of the Brooklyn YWCA. Believing that education is a key to empowerment, Charles focused the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation’s early grants on promoting equal access to quality education.

1947-1979

A 1948 New York Herald Tribune article announces early scholarships.

Empowerment through Education

In an era marked by fierce battles over school integration, grants primarily supported scholarships to help equalize access to higher education, especially for Black students.

1980-1989

Environmental concerns like toxic pollution led to new grants.

Responding to a Changing World

As the profound threats to our environment became clear, the foundation expanded its focus, making grants to nonprofits working on education as well as the environment and reproductive health.

1990-2010

Our business investments must align with our mission.

Mission-aligned Investing

Determined to create a just, equitable society, supporting social-justice movements became core to our mission as did investing our endowment in ways that strengthen and support those movements.

2011-2017

Organized by Brandworkers, New Yorkers rally for restaurant workers in 2017.

Rights and Justice

As part of a new strategic plan, we established four funding priorities: environmental justice, sustainable agriculture and food systems, reproductive rights, and an environmentally sustainable New York City, with an emphasis on making grants to organizations led by people of color.

TODAY

SONG convenes diverse communities to forge new connections.

An Intersectional Approach

Recognizing that our best hope for creating a just, sustainable society comes from grassroots movements working across issue areas and led by the people most impacted by injustice, we have moved beyond funding silos to support organizations participating in intersecting people-powered movements through both grantmaking and impact investing.