Basic Needs Fund

Est. 2020 by Karen Pritzker

Photo courtesy of Connecticut Food Bank (now Connecticut Foodshare)

The Basic Needs Fund was established in April 2020 to help ensure that all New Haven area residents have the basic material needs of daily life. It is a committee-advised component fund of The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven which distributes grants to organizations addressing the basic material needs of the people of Greater New Haven. As a permanent endowment, the Basic Needs Fund is designed to not only address the challenges facing Greater New Haven's community today, but to be there as a resource to address the needs of future generations.

Guiding Principles

We believe in the inherent dignity of all people and that the most basic material human needs of food and water, safety and shelter, and access to essential services should be available with compassion to everyone. Our collective power is realized when it is built on trust and respect, mutual support, empathy, solidarity, and participatory and inclusive practices. We are committed to realizing the greatest possible good with all the financial and non-financial assets we have available.


The purpose of the fund is to help ensure that all New Haven area residents have the basic material needs of daily life, such as but not limited to: food, shelter, hygiene items, safety and communication tools -- and to promote the dignity of people who need financial assistance. The Basic Needs Fund will work towards this purpose by making grants in active coordination with other major funders; and through public advocacy and education on the state of basic needs in Greater New Haven.

Definition of Basic Needs

The Fund's advisory committee has defined basic needs as material needs that include but are not limited to shelter, food, clothing, hygiene items, non-prescription drugs and other essential health care not covered by insurance, home utilities, physical safety, transportation, and communication tools.

The Need: Recent Data

1 in 10 Connecticut residents report being unable to afford food. In urban areas, the number is 1 in 6.

Learn more from DataHaven's Community Wellbeing Survey

Last year, Connecticut Foodshare distributed enough food from warehouses like the one pictured above to provide nearly 47 million meals through a network of more than 700 community-based hunger relief programs. CREDIT: Stephanie Decker

Since March 2020, Columbus House has helped over 580 households – including 164 Veteran households – move from transitional into permanent housing. CREDIT: Columbus House

Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) prepares groceries to go at the onset of the pandemic. It has seen a 20% increase in the number of new households it serves and in 2021 opened a drop-in center for homeless New Haveners. CREDIT: DESK

In March 2021, the root causes of poverty and the work being done to aid and help transform the lives of families in Greater New Haven was explored in depth by a panel moderated by author and National Diaper Bank Network CEO Joanne Goldblum, with panelists Myra Smith, Neighborhood Advocate for Christian Community Action, and Jill Meyerhoff, Executive Director, FISH of Greater New Haven. Watch the discussion below:

Nonprofit Work Throughout the Region

Learn about recent work by area nonprofit organizations to meet the basic material needs of residents through the stories below.

Hotels for People Experiencing Homelessness

The hotel-to-shelter model shows positive outcomes.

Read More ›

Women Find Stability with Help from Women & Family Life Center

For many women living one paycheck away from a financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating. The Women and Family Life Center has offered a lifeline.

Read More ›

Community Soup Kitchen Grows Under New Director

Joshua Lamarr Watkins is named Executive Director.

Read More ›

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The fund is governed by an advisory committee (“The Committee”) composed of representatives from three constituent groups: givers to the fund; cooperating funders; and organizations that provide basic material needs.

Grantmaking Process

Howard, a former cook at Community Soup Kitchen, serving meals outside Christ Church, New Haven. Contributed photo.

A collaborative, leveraged, problem-solving approach will be taken in regard to grant making to achieve maximum impact on specific challenges. Multi-year commitments are considered when appropriate to put new or expanding programs on firm footing. Cooperating funders may present unfunded, basic needs requests for consideration. Grants will be made without a set schedule and after community needs are discussed and researched.

Grants Awarded

Nearly $410,000 was distributed in the first year (2021) of The Basic Needs Fund to these grant recipients. Thank you to all who made it possible.

    The Basic Needs Fund
    Watch this video about The Basic Needs Fund

    Attention Donors: Gifts to the Basic Needs Fund Can Be Matched

    Help us Reach our Goal to Raise $3 Million

    The Basic Needs Fund Advisory Committee has a set a goal in 2022 to raise $3 million to grow the endowment so that more grant resources can be available for nonprofits providing basic material needs within The Community Foundation’s service area – now and in the future. To incentivize giving, The Committee is issuing a $500,000 Match Campaign starting April 1, 2022; all gifts to the Fund received on or after April 1 will be matched dollar for dollar up to a maximum of $25,000 per gift until the $500,000 has been appropriated.

    To make a gift, please use the secure credit card processing form below. Checks can be mailed to The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, 70 Audubon Street, New Haven CT 06510; please put Basic Needs Fund in the memo line.

    Make a donation

    Basic Needs Fund