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Surdna Foundation, Inc.


Last Updated: 2016-02-15

At A Glance

Surdna Foundation, Inc.

330 Madison Ave., 30th Fl.

New York City, NY United States 10017-5001

Telephone: (212) 557-0010


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Additional Descriptor

  • Celebrity: Politics
  • Family foundation

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2014-06-30)

Assets: $1,037,047,874

Total giving: $38,426,897






Incorporated in 1917 in NY - Founded by the late John Emory Andrus in 1917 to pursue a range of philanthropic purposes. John Andrus was born in 1841 in Pleasantville, New York, graduated from Wesleyan University and soon moved from teaching school to pursuing his talents as a an investor and a businessman. His primary business, the Arlington Chemical Company, manufactured and distributed typical medicines of the day, and his business interests included large land holdings as far away as Alaska. The son of a Methodist minister, Andrus was a lay leader of the Methodist Church. In his 60s, he was elected mayor of Yonkers, New York, and then served four terms in the U.S. Congress. A devoted family man, he founded the Julia Dyckman Andrus Memorial in 1923, an orphanage that was a tribute to his beloved wife, an orphan herself, at the site of her adoptive family's farm in Westchester County New York. The orphanage was later joined in 1953 by an adjacent retirement home, the John E. Andrus Memorial. This completed Andrus' expressed wish that his legacy provide communities with "opportunity for youth and rest for old age." Family stewardship of the Foundation has been informed by Andrus' values: thrift, practicality, modesty, loyalty, excellence, and an appreciation for direct service to those in need. In 1989, the third and fourth generations of the Andrus family established Surdna Foundation programs in environment and community revitalization and decided to enlarge the professional staff to broaden the Foundation's effectiveness, and in 1994, programs in effective citizenry and the arts were added. Today, the foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States' communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.

Purpose and Activities

The foundation seeks to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. The foundation focuses on three core areas: 1) Sustainable Environments; 2) Strong Local Economies; and 3) Thriving Cultures.

Program Area(s)

The grantmaker has identified the following area(s) of interest:

Program Related Investment Fund

The $18 million Program Related Investment (PRI) revolving fund began investing in 2014. The fund supports the foundation’s mission of fostering just and sustainable communities by providing investment capital to fund innovations that use market-based approaches to address economic, cultural, and environmental challenges. The program will focus on demonstrating the viability of new innovations, rather than expanding or replicating successful ones. The program will typically work with and through intermediaries, rather than investing in projects directly. The foundation makes PRIs by invitation only to for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations for select ventures that are designed to promote the work of one of the foundation's three main program strategies.

Program-Related Investment

The foundation has made PRIs in the form of loans to a loan program to connect businesses owned by people of color and women to the short-term capital they need and to a nonprofit financial services organization, to capitalize a loan program to supply lines of credit and equipment loans to help food hubs expand their processing systems.

Strong Local Economies

The goal of the program is to support the development of robust and sustainable economies that include a wide range of businesses and access to quality jobs. The program aims to create opportunities for upward economic mobility among communities that have experienced historical economic barriers, including low-income people, communities of color, women, and immigrants. The program's work is guided by a strong commitment to social justice and equity. It seeks to create just and sustainable economies through three lines of work: Business Development and Acceleration; Equitable Economic Development; and Job Quality and Career Pathways.

Sustainable Environments

The program is working to overhaul our country's outdated and crumbling infrastructure with a new approach that will foster healthier, sustainable, and just communities. The foundation believes in the potential of what it calls "next generation infrastructure" to improve transit systems, make buildings more energy efficient, better manage our water systems and rebuild regional food systems. Focusing on urban areas and their surrounding suburbs, the foundation seeks solutions that connect and improve these infrastructure systems in ways that maximize positive impacts and minimize negative environmental, economic and social consequences. The program seeks to create just and sustainable economies through four lines of work: Sustainable Transportation Networks & Equitable Development Patterns; Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment; Urban Water Management; and Regional Food Supply. .

Thriving Cultures

The program is based on a belief that communities with robust arts and culture are more cohesive and prosperous, and benefit from the diversity of their residents. The foundation knows that artists and cultural organizations can help explore shared values and spark innovation, imagination and advancement for our communities. Too often, however, arts and culture is undervalued as a catalyst for creating just and sustainable communities, which is a key priority for the foundation. The program seeks to create just and sustainable communities through four lines of work: Teens' Artistic and Cultural Advancement; Community Engaged Design; Artists and Economic Development; and Artists Engaging in Social Change.

Fields of Interest

  • Arts and culture
  • Arts education
  • Civic participation
  • Community and economic development
  • Cultural awareness
  • Employment
  • Energy efficiency
  • Environment
  • Green building
  • Sustainable development
  • Urban development
Population Groups
  • Economically disadvantaged people
  • Ethnic and racial groups
  • Low-income and poor people
  • Associations
  • Coalitions and alliances

Financial Data

Year ended 2014-06-30

Assets: $1,037,047,874 (market value)

Gifts received: $10,022,867

Expenditures: $51,091,241

Total giving: $38,426,897

Qualifying distributions: $47,409,793

Giving activities include:

$38,426,897 for 437 grants (high: $802,000; low: $100)

$770,400 for 2 loans/program-related investments