Fisher Foundation Provides Grant to New York Opportunity League
Judy Chen

“It was the defining moment for me and it couldn’t have come at a more critical juncture for the organization,” said The New York Opportunity Network (NYON) founder Jessica Switzer of the $25,000 grant provided by the Avery and Janet Fisher Foundation, a family foundation that gives to charitable organizations in the States engaged in various humanitarian and social causes.

What began as a chance meeting at the Charity Network’s Ivy Cup committee cocktail party hosted at Brett Johnson’s residence in April of 2005 has turned into a lifelong friendship between Fisher and Switzer. While not specifically looking for a charity to back, Fisher’s entrepreneurial attitude was immediately attracted to the NYON’s well-defined mission: to create access for New York City’s public high school students to careers, college and professional networks. “Not only is [Fisher] an extraordinary friend, but he is also a great ally, mentor and source of insight. We just really clicked and get along so well,” says Switzer. At that point in time, despite a successful first few years, NYON needed a grant to be able to increase staffing and take it to the next level. As with any small charitable organizations, the Fisher Foundation understands the difficulty involved in fundraising for small non-profits, especially given the sheer number of New York charities competing for money. Typically, the biggest problem with small non-profits is securing funding, as banks and large foundations typically have requisites that small charities can’t meet early on. “Helping a small organization raise its visibility quickly with a substantial grant has had a tremendous impact,” says Fisher. In addition to taking an active interest in what NYON does, the Fisher Foundation’s solid reputation has also helped attract new donors. After receiving the grant, Switzer left her ten-year career in corporate marketing to run NYON full time, which allows her more time to raise money for the charity.

Founded in 2002 by Jessica Switzer and Brian Weinstein, a fellow Yale graduate now working at Creative Artists Agency, the pair felt strongly about the many kids who have enormous talents with no real access to career networks. Thus, they wanted to create a platform that would provide them with access to career development, college preparation and networks previously unavailable to them. Executives in a variety of sectors teach these students about jobs and careers, coach them on professional etiquette and workplace appropriateness, and provide them with internships at their companies. The result is clearly evident: These bright teenagers are now exposed to a brand new world of possibilities that will dramatically change their future. The New York Opportunity Network has made a real social impact, where we are just beginning to see these kids assume positions of responsibility and influence.

According to CN Founder Brett Johnson, who organized the cocktail party, “When we created the Charity Network, our aim was to organize events that provided exposure to worthy but smaller charities, where we could hopefully make a difference. Chip Fisher’s support of NYON was what we aspired would happen and we’re delighted with the results and hope that it can serve as a model to others regarding the level of impact everyone can make.”