John and Susan Simon

Social Entrepreneurs Partnering with the Boston Foundation


Education, youth development, health care.  These and other issues that have a profound impact on Boston’s families and children are at the heart of the philanthropy of Boston Foundation donors John and Susan Simon.  They are also the issues that inspired John to co-found the GreenLight Fund in 2003, an ingenious organization that locates high-impact nonprofits in other cities and replicates them in Boston.  The group’s other founder, Margaret Hall, serves as its hardworking executive director.  From its earliest days, GreenLight has partnered with the Boston Foundation in almost every way possible.

“First, we rely on the Boston Foundation to help us identify local needs,” says John.  “The Boston Indicators Project, with its wealth of knowledge, is invaluable in that process.  Then, the Foundation connects us with community foundations in other cities to search for great nonprofit organizations that we can replicate here.  Finally, the Foundation is the perfect place to start networking when we’re searching for an executive director who can take a great idea and build a local organization around it.”

For its part, the Foundation has been so impressed with the GreenLight Fund’s work that in 2005, it made a grant of $400,000 to help the organization meet a challenge from the Tudor Foundation, giving it the resources it needs to support the young organizations it replicates for their first three years of operation.

Of the four new nonprofits already launched by GreenLight, Susan Simon’s imagination has been captured by one in particular.  Called “Friends of Children—Boston,” it replicates a concept launched in Portland, Oregon that matches vulnerable Boston school children with adults who will stick with them for their entire educational experience.  Susan is mentoring a little girl named Angelica.

“Angelica is going into the fifth grade now,” she says, “and she’s a delight.  She’s teaching our kids Spanish and I think we’re exciting her interest in reading.”  Friends of the Children has had remarkable success in other cities across the country, with close to all of participating children staying in school and staying out of trouble.