The Burnes Family

With Four Donor Advised Funds, Giving is a Family Affair

Butler’s Hole is a magical spot where Nantucket Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean. It holds a special place in the hearts of the Burnes family and so when Nonnie and Rick Burnes decided to open a Donor Advised Fund at the Boston Foundation in 1994, they called it the Butler’s Hole Fund.


Rick has been a venture capitalist since the early days of his career, co-founding Charles River Ventures in 1970.  Nonnie is a Senior University Fellow at the Northeastern’s School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs.  From 2007 to 2009, she served as Massachusetts Commissioner of Insurance and prior to that was a Superior Court Judge. Both believe in the kind of philanthropy that involves far more than donating funds.

“I think donors should take responsibility for making sure that the dollars they invest are effectively spent,” explains Rick.  “One way to do that is to serve on the boards of nonprofits.”  With a passion for the importance of teaching technology, he has chaired the board of Boston’s Museum of Science and Nonnie currently chairs board of the Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts at a time when that organization’s work is more important than ever.

“We have always encouraged the entire family to contribute to the causes and nonprofits they believe in,” says Nonnie, “but we also wanted them to understand the importance of giving time and leadership.”  Rick adds, “I guess it worked: They were all chairing boards of nonprofits by the time they were in their thirties.”

All three of their adult children also have their own Donor Advised Funds at the Foundation, all with the words “Butler’s Hole” in the fund names.  “They represent the next generation of philanthropists,” says Nonnie, “and we’re proud of the thoughtful way they are taking on that role."