Civic Leadership


Over the last decade, the Boston Foundation has become a major civic leader for Greater Boston and our region—with crucial support from the Civic Leadership Fund, which raised more than $1.6 million this year. The Foundation and our many partners in the business and nonprofit community—as well as numerous public officials—have had a real impact on a series of issues that are critical to the economic competitiveness of Greater Boston and the Commonwealth. These include smart growth housing, public education reform, cultural facilities funding, CORI reform, municipal finance and, most recently, sweeping reform of the entire Massachusetts community college system.

Civic Leadership

  Changing the Game cover

Download a PDF of Changing the Game, published by The Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society, which traces the development of the Boston Foundation’s civic leadership model and the Foundation’s evolution into a powerfully engaged, influential player in Boston and across Massachusetts.

  Read the press release about Changing the Game
Our Formula

We conduct this work through a formula that is working:

  • Cutting Edge Research
  • Major Forums and Convenings
  • Strategic, Proactive Grantmaking
  • Task Forces and Coalitions
  • Communications and Media
  • Deep Public Policy Work

How We Support Our Work

All of our civic leadership is supported by the Civic Leadership Fund, which every year is contributed to by hundreds of community-minded donors.

Our Approach

Through our Understanding Boston series, we identify challenges facing our city and region, commission fresh research and share information through a series of popular forums that are attended by thousands of people every year. The Foundation also is known for using strategic, proactive grantmaking to strengthen its civic leadership work and forming powerful task forces and coalitions of experts dedicated to fulfilling powerful agendas for change. Through all of these strategies, including working closely with the media to encourage in-depth coverage of key issues, we engage in bold public policy work in partnership with other civic leaders and policy makers. Over the years, our civic leadership has had a profound impact on public education, affordable housing, fiscal issues for municipalities, health and wellness, cultural facilities—and other areas of critical importance to the people of our city and region.

The Foundation also sponsors the Boston Indicators Project, which provides a comprehensive, constantly-updated body information about every aspect of life in Greater Boston through groundbreaking reports and an award-winning state-of-the-art website at

Desired Outcomes

Through our civic leadership, the Boston Foundation identifies areas of particular importance to Greater Boston. Among these are closing the achievement gap for low-income students of color; monitoring the success we have had in aligning Massachusetts community colleges with the workforce needs of our state; promoting health in the Commonwealth; producing and preserving housing that is near transit nodes, known as smart growth housing; supporting our state’s valuable cultural institutions, with a focus on providing public funds to improve their facilities; reforming our state’s CORI (criminal offender record information) system, with the goal of helping more formerly charged or incarcerated people qualify for jobs and housing slots; increasing the number of adults who are eligible for hundreds of thousands of middle-skill jobs in Massachusetts; and saving millions of dollars for cities and towns in order to retain police and fire workers as well as important civic institutions.

Related Strategies

  • Advance legislation to further close the achievement gap through the work of the Race to the Top Coalition
  • Partner with the Patrick Administration, the legislature, college leaders and the business and civic communities through the Coalition FOR Community Colleges to implement and monitor reforms that improve the funding and governance of the Commonwealth’s 15 community colleges
  • Make Massachusetts the national leader in health and wellness through the Healthy People/Healthy Economy Coalition by, among other activities, promoting legislation that would remove subsidies for sugary sodas, which contribute to the state’s obesity epidemic
  • Work with the Massachusetts legislature to continue to provide funds for our state’s cultural facilities
  • Continue to increase smart growth housing through the work of the Commonwealth Housing Task Force
  • Continue to work closely with the Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice to monitor progress on CORI reform
  • Provide support and technical assistance to municipalities to implement municipal health plan reform and report on the millions of dollars saved statewide

For more information about our civic leadership and public policy work, please contact Keith Mahoney, Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs, at 617-338-2391 or at

  • September 19, 2013 Boston Mayoral Forum

    The Boston Foundation, WBUR, and the University of Massachusetts Boston’s McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies and College of Advancing and Professional Studies hosted the final major Boston mayoral forum before the preliminary election on September 19th in the UMass Boston Campus Center.

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