Celebrating Our Centennial

Did you know that the Boston Foundation has provided early seed funding to more than 100 nonprofits and innovative ideas?  Learn more about the many times the Boston Foundation was there at the beginning for new nonprofits and great ideas. 

At right: Eleanor Roosevelt interviews Senator John F. Kennedy on WGBH-TV’s Prospects of Mankind.

100 Years of Impact

Responding to Need, Seeding Innovation, Changing the Game

Since 1915, the Boston Foundation has served as the major philanthropy for Boston:

Responding to Need

WWI Ship in Boston Harbor

In 1915, on the brink of America’s involvement in World War I, Greater Boston’s community foundation was founded by a father and son team—Charles E. and Charles M. Rogerson—with the son becoming the first director.  In just two years, a businessman named James Longley left an astounding $4 million to the Foundation, the largest gift to any community foundation for many years to come, making the Foundation the first in the country to make grants. For the next four decades, the Foundation primarily responded to the needs of Boston’s poor immigrants and laborers, with major funding helping to ease the pressures of two world wars, the Great Depression and the polio epidemic of the 1950s.


Seeding Innovation

City Year

Thanks to another major bequest of close to $20 million in 1959 from a mysterious financier named Albert Stone, the Foundation hired its first full-time director, Wilbur Bender, and began making visionary seed funding to a host of new nonprofits and ideas. The Foundation went on to have a profound impact on affordable housing and the community development movement, a vast network of community health centers and public education in Boston.  It was also there at the beginning for more than 100 great ideas and new nonprofits—from the New England Aquarium to Brigham and Women’s Hospital to the cleanup of Boston Harbor.  See the full list of the times the Foundation was there at the beginning.


Changing the Game

Massachusetts State HouseWhen Paul S. Grogan became President and CEO of the Boston Foundation in 2001, he began to use all of the tools in the toolbox to have a positive impact on Greater Boston. The Foundation has become a major civic leader for Boston and the region, conducting and publishing research into the most pressing issues of the day, holding public forums and having a profound impact on public policy. Significant accomplishments have included groundbreaking education reform legislation, municipal health care reform, cultural facilities funding, a new campaign promoting health and wellness and impact on a number of other areas of community life.  

The Foundation also continues to respond to the needs of the people of Greater Boston, with a special Food and Fuel initiative and other programs, and to seed innovation by offering early funding to great new ideas through the Vision Fund.

Read the book There at the Beginning: How the Boston Foundation Took a Chance on More Than 100 Great Ideas That Worked.

Watch a brief video that features many of the There at the Beginning organizations.

  • There at the Beginning Organizations

    The Boston Foundation’s endowment, the Permanent Fund for Boston, has provided the resources for the numerous times the Boston Foundation has been “there at the beginning,” providing seed capital and early grants to new nonprofits, ideas and innovations in all areas of community life.
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