Bill and Joyce Cummings

The First in Massachusetts to Sign the Bill Gates Giving Pledge

The Boston Foundation was honored to welcome local philanthropists Bill and Joyce Cummings as the keynote speakers for the launch of the Giving Common on May 30. The Cummings are the first Massachusetts family to sign the Giving Pledge, which was started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett and asks the nation’s wealthiest families to donate at least half of their accumulated fortune to philanthropic causes. The Cummingses already have given away more than 90 percent of their fortune.


“We joined the Giving Pledge for two reasons,” explained Joyce Cummings. “The first was to encourage others to get involved with philanthropy and to give what they could. The second was to make our new grantmaking foundation more publicly known.” The Cummingses have an operating foundation and recently launched two grant making entities, including the Institute for World Justice, which concentrates most of its attention on Rwanda, and OneWorld Boston, which promotes diversity locally.

Bill Cummings spoke of the couple’s modest beginnings—describing his childhood growing up in a one-bedroom flat in Medford and meeting Joyce, who had grown up in Alabama, when she was working as a dietician at Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary. He was selling fruit punch for a company he had recently purchased. “Joyce liked our fruit punch and I guess she liked me,” he said. “She was also very pretty, very smart and a great cook—and she had $3,000 in the bank. We married in 1966.” Eventually, he sold the company and started the highly successful Cummings Properties.

“Having just established two new foundations, we very much appreciate that tools like the Giving Common will make it easier for donors to find those causes they wish to support,” said Mr. Cummings, “while giving nonprofits new ways to demonstrate their values and their contributions to the communities they serve.” Starting in 2013, the Cummings anticipate asking applicants to their foundation to complete a Giving Common profile.

At a “Celebration of Philanthropy” luncheon held with Boston Foundation donors after the Giving Common event, Mr. Cummings added, “Joyce and I are very aware of what the Boston Foundation has been doing for decades—and we want to do everything we can to help you promote the Giving Common."