There are few things more challenging in a parent’s life than discovering that a child has severe developmental disabilities. This is what happened to Zella and Jack Butler in 1939 when they welcomed their daughter, Barbara, into the world. At that time, there were far fewer options available for people with disabilities than exist today, and this frustrating experience guided the philanthropic efforts of the Butler couple until their deaths.

The Butlers created a foundation in their names in 1954 as a living legacy of their commitment to people with disabilities, the people of New York, and the Jewish community. Here are key details to know about the Butler Foundation’s approach to grantmaking at the local level.  

Grantmaking for People with Disabilities

Informed by the founders’ personal experience, the Butler Foundation continues to give significantly to groups that serve people with disabilities. These grants go towards after-school, summer, vacation, and work readiness programs that help this population. It looks for programs that enhance empowerment, interaction with the community, and advocacy for families and loved ones.

Youth Development Grants

In addition to people with disabilities, the Butler foundation prioritizes youth development as a grantmaking category. Butler’s youth development grants fund long-term after-school and summer programs for youth, such as programs for mentoring, leadership development, community involvement, and internships. Overall, this is primarily a funder of direct service programs.

Geographic Areas Served

The foundation is headquartered on Third Avenue in New York City, and much of its giving takes place in the New York City metropolitan area. However, the foundation also supports nonprofits in Boston.

In both locations, grants are usually for a single year and are not awarded for capital campaigns, research projects, or endowments. Past grantees in New York include the Breakthrough New York for a poverty-fighting program, Bottom Line for a college access and success program, and Central Queens Y for social and recreational programming for youth with disabilities.

Applying for Grants

According to the “funding priorities” page of its website, the Butler Foundation is not currently accepting unsolicited grant applications. However, in the past the funder has been open to accepting letters of inquiry. These letters are required to be two pages or less in length and sent by email to either the New York or the Boston contact person. Historically, the Butler Foundation has awarded grants three times per year—in April, September, and December following March 15, August 15, and November 15 deadlines.

You can learn more about the Butler Foundation and how to get in touch with New York-based staff in IP’s full profile of the J.E. & Z.B. Butler Foundation.

Share with cohorts