Gerstner Philanthropies focuses on biomedical research, educational opportunities, and assistance for people who have suffered a temporary setback and could use a “helping hand” to restore their equilibrium.

Our Biomedical Research funding falls into two categories:

  • Supporting important genomic research that could lead to breakthroughs in clinical practice
  • Enabling talented young scientists to pursue a career in research

Our Education work supports students who have talent and determination but whose opportunity to excel is limited because of their economic circumstances.

Our Helping Hands program provides assistance for people experiencing an unforeseen emergency through one-time cash grants.

In addition, we make a small number of grants related to or outside of these areas of focus.


  • January 23, 2020

    The Gerstner Family Foundation has made the first installment of its $750,000 grant to Seton Education Partners to support the opening of two new Brilla Schools in the Bronx. Founded by Seton Education Partners in 2013, Brilla Public Charter Schools is a network of high-performing, classically-based charter schools located in the Bronx, NY. The network currently serves 940 students, 91% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Brilla, which means “shine” in Spanish, was founded on the conviction that schools should develop the whole child—mind, body, and spirit. For that reason, in addition to leveraging the best instructional practices such as technology-based learning, a co-teaching model, and a longer school year, Brilla implements a robust character education program centered around the four core virtues of courage, justice, wisdom, and self-control. In both ELA and math, Brilla was the third highest performing school out of all New York state elementary schools serving a similar demographic. Other funders of the project include The Facilities Investment Fund and Charter School Growth Fund.

  • Gerstner Philanthropies Awards Over $3 Million For Emergency Grant Program
    January 22, 2020

    Gerstner Philanthropies announced today that it has awarded $3.1 million to 18 social services organizations to be used for emergency grants to people in need. Gerstner made the grants as part of its Helping Hands program, and anticipates making additional grants this year for Helping Hands to bring the total close to $4 million. Emergency grants have been a core part of Gerstner’s work for over a decade, with grants for Helping Hands totaling almost $12 million. Approximately 12,000 households have been helped, primarily in NYC and also in Boston and Palm Beach County, Florida. The majority of emergency grants are used for eviction prevention, though funds may also be used for other urgent needs. The average emergency grant size is under $1,000. Gerstner’s recent round of grantmaking comes on the heels of the first Helping Hands convening, held in November 2019 assembling representatives from all of the organizations in the program to discuss challenges and innovations, share stories of impact, and brainstorm ideas for scaling emergency grantmaking.

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Reflections on Helping Hands

Lou Gerstner shares the origin of and his vision for the emergency grants program, lessons learned over the past decade, and his belief in the critical importance of the work.

Watch the video