The Boston Foundation

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The Boston Foundation, founded in 1915, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation.[1] Serving the Greater Boston area, it is made up of some 1,100 separate charitable funds established by thousands of donors over more than 100 years.[1] Funds are set up either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes, such as supporting individual nonprofit organizations in perpetuity. Today the Foundation is the largest public charity and the largest grantmaker in New England, making more than $130 million in grants in FY2018.[2] Since 2001, the Boston Foundation has also served as a civic leader by commissioning and publishing research and providing a platform for discussion and progress related to a wide range of challenges facing Boston and the region.


The Boston Foundation was founded in 1915 by Charles E. and Charles M. Rogerson, who were father and son.[3] Originally called the Permanent Charity Fund, it was the third community foundation in the United States, but it stood out for its innovative approach to philanthropy.[3] It was the first community foundation based on the novel idea of collecting funds from across an entire region, and building an endowment to improve the life of the community.[3] Equally precedent-setting was the Rogersons’ notion of empowering a Distribution Committee, composed of prominent and knowledgeable citizens, to make grants on the basis of need—where the funds could do the greatest good. The genius lay in coupling the constancy of endowment with the flexibility of giving away money, compassionately, to meet changing community needs.

In 1985, the foundation was renamed The Boston Foundation, and Anna Faith Jones became the President—the first African-American woman to lead a major foundation in the United States. Today, it is led by President and CEO, Paul S. Grogan.[4]


As Greater Boston's community foundation since 1915, the Boston Foundation devotes its resources to building and sustaining a vital, prosperous city and region, where justice and opportunity are extended to everyone. It fulfills this mission in three principal ways:

  • Making grants to nonprofit organizations and designing special funding initiatives to address this community's critical challenges;
  • Working in partnership with donors to achieve high-impact philanthropy; and
  • Serving as a civic hub and center of information, where ideas are shared, levers for change are identified, and common agendas for the future are developed.



The Foundation is overseen by a 20-member Board of Directors, selected to represent diverse community interests.[6] The staff includes professionals in grantmaking, philanthropy, finance and administration and communications.[7]


Over more than 100 years of grantmaking, the Foundation has been there at the beginning for numerous fresh ideas and new institutions by providing crucial seed capital and other support.[3] Among its greatest accomplishments are grants that helped to launch WGBH-TV, now considered the nation's premier public television station.[3] It also made an early investment in the redevelopment of Faneuil Hall into a thriving marketplace, often credited with sparking the renewal of Boston in recent decades; and helped to shape Boston's Longwood Medical Center area.[3] The Foundation invested in the most extensive network of community health centers in the nation and made grants to a group called Save the Harbor/Save the Bay to clean up Boston Harbor.[3] What was once one of the filthiest harbors in the world is now one of the cleanest.[3] It also made early grants to numerous organizations that started in Boston and spread throughout the country, like City Year, Citizen Schools and BELL.[3]

Today, the Foundation and its donors make grants[8] each year to hundreds of nonprofits in Greater Boston and across the country.[1] In addition to placing a special strategic focus on the areas of Housing and Community Development,[9] Education[9] and Workforce Development,[10] the Foundation also makes grants in the areas of Arts & Culture,[11] Civic Engagement,[12] Community Safety,[12] Health and Human Services[13] the Nonprofit Sector[14] and the Urban Environment.[15] Every year, the Foundation also has special initiatives to address the most pressing issues affecting the community, such as Civic Engagement, Pilot Schools and Homelessness Prevention.[16]

Civic leadership[edit]

Through its Understanding Boston series, the Boston Foundation commissions research from universities, think tanks and other organizations and shares this information through a series of forums that are attended by thousands of people every year.[17] Issues addressed through Understanding Boston embrace a broad range of issues, including public education, housing, the workforce, health, philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, the arts and the urban environment.[17]

In addition to providing fresh information and bringing people together to discuss findings, the Foundation also creates Task Forces and Action Agendas to produce positive change. A number of issues have been influenced by this process. The Commonwealth Housing Task Force created a Smart Growth housing effort to address the current shortage of housing in the state.[18] The program has led to dozens of towns and cities building thousands of new units of housing.[19] The Foundation's civic leadership also helped lead to the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, which has provided millions in state funding for cultural facilities.[20] Its work examining the current Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system has led to a complete re-evaluation of the system by state lawmakers.[21] The Foundation's research and public information campaign related to public education has influenced the Governor's approach to education across the state.[22] Other issues that have benefited from the Foundation's civic leadership include preventing homelessness, a new collaborative for the life sciences, issues related to health and health care and the revenue-raising capacity of Massachusetts cities.[1]

Boston Indicators Project[edit]

The Foundation's civic leadership also extends to its Boston Indicators Project, which it directs in partnership with the City of Boston and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The project relies on the expertise of hundreds of stakeholders gathered together in multiple convenings to frame its conclusions, and draw data from the wealth of information and research generated by the region's excellent public agencies, civic institutions, think tanks, and community-based organizations.[23] The Boston Foundation will release a biennial report, with supplemental updates and outreach, through the year 2030, Boston's 400th anniversary.

The Boston Indicators Project offers new ways to understand Boston and its neighborhoods in a regional context. It aims to democratize access to information, foster informed public discourse, track progress on share civic goals, and report on change in 10 sectors: Civic Vitality,[24] Cultural Life and the Arts,[25] the Economy,[26] Education,[27] the Environment,[28] Health,[29] Housing,[30] Public Safety,[31] Technology[32] and Transportation.[33]

The Project's first report, The Wisdom of Our Choices, was released in 2000. The second report, Creativity and Innovation: A Bridge to the Future, was released in early 2003, along with the launch of the Project's interactive website, which received the International Tech Museum Award that year for using technology to further equality.[34] The third report, Thinking Globally/Acting Locally: A Regional Wake-Up Call, was released in 2005, with an enhanced website. The most recent report, released in 2007, is titled A Time Like No Other: Charting the Course of the Next Revolution.

All Boston Indicators Project reports are available online at The website provides sector highlights, indicators with data available for download, and features such as the Hub of Innovation, Links & Resources, and a Data Portal to other data-rich sites. New research from area and national sources is posted on a regular basis.


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ "The Boston Foundation FY2018 Financial Statement" (PDF).
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  4. ^ Meet Our President. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  5. ^ Mission Statement. (December 15, 2005). Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  6. ^ Meet Our Board. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  7. ^ TBF Staff. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  8. ^ Grant Seekers. (July 1, 2011). Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Funding Priorities-Education and Out of School Time. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  10. ^ Funding Priorities-Workforce Development. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  11. ^ Funding Priorities-Arts and Culture. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  12. ^ a b Funding Priorities-Civic Engagement. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  13. ^ Funding Priorities-Health and Human Services. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  14. ^ Funding Priorities-Nonprofit Sector. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  15. ^ Funding Priorities-Urban Environment. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  16. ^ Initiatives. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  17. ^ a b The Boston Foundation. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  18. ^ The Commonwealth Housing Task Force. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  19. ^ The Boston Foundation. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  20. ^
  21. ^ The Boston Foundation. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  22. ^ The Boston Foundation. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  23. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  24. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  25. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. (December 10, 2006). Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  26. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  27. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. (April 14, 2009). Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  28. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  29. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  30. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. (December 31, 2010). Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  31. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. (December 15, 2008). Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  32. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  33. ^ The Boston Indicators Project. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.
  34. ^ Press Releases Detail. Retrieved on October 20, 2011.

External links[edit]