TBF News Spring 2017

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 Paris Wallace

“People in this city are altruistic in a way that I don’t think they are anywhere else,” says Paris Wallace (above).

How Boston’s Entrepreneurs Are Giving Back

When you think Los Angeles you think movies; with D.C. it’s government; New York has finance. Every city has its defining field. “Boston is just smart.” So says Paris Wallace, Co-Founder and CEO of the women’s health and fertility startup Ovia Health. Wallace never had a specific plan to make Massachusetts home. After completing Harvard Business School and a fellowship at the Kennedy School of Government, the California native stayed here because Boston is the best place for something he did always have a plan to do: work that provides a social good.


InnerCity Weight Lifting


Zoe Anetakis and Jeff Fagnan at Inner City Weightlifting, which is supported by both Accomplice and TUGG.

He is not alone. Many things come together to boost Boston’s economy, and overlapping networks of smart, ambitious and creative people are among them. In addition, many of Boston’s leading professionals and rising entrepreneurs identify with the millennial tag. They represent a new wave of wealth creation and a new approach to philanthropy.

Paul English is a role model for many of this generation’s entrepreneurs. His successful journey from founder of the travel startup Kayak to philanthropist was chronicled in Tracy Kidder’s book A Truck Full of Money. “When you meet people you believe in, throw money at them,” English said in a December 2016 event at the Boston Foundation. “But if you give, get involved. Be a part of the change you are supporting.”

Jeff Fagnan’s practices align with that. As Founder of the venture firm Accomplice and the nonprofitTechnology Underwriting the Greater Good (TUGG), he is constantly connecting action with resources, and getting involved. (He serves on at least a dozen boards of startups and nonprofits.) “As investors, we get behind companies when we see a signal that things are going well,” he says. “We assess a nonprofit the same way, and invest similarly.” Fagnan’s approach to building a healthy economy includes enabling people who have been disadvantaged by circumstances of poverty, race, immigration status or other factors to become strong contributors to the business ecosystem.

Two organizations that both TUGG and Accomplice support are InnerCity Weightlifting (ICW) and Resilient Coders. Each in its way helps young people cross boundaries into new opportunities, expanding their skills and their network of contacts. TUGG does more of that boundary crossing as it creates community and opportunity for profit/nonprofit cross-pollination. It organizes social gatherings and volunteer events that link Boston area professionals, entrepreneurs and nonprofits. Executive Director Zoe Anetakis says, “We don’t prescribe how entrepreneurs, founders or companies get involved, only encourage them, and provide awareness, opportunities and access points to do so.”



 Pledge One

TUGG is the Foundation’s lead partner in Pledge 1% Boston, a new joint-initiative that is the first city-based chapter for Pledge 1%, which rallies companies and individuals to pledge one percent—of equity, profit or whatever is most appropriate—to nonprofits.

Accomplice’s pledge of support of ICW and Resilient Coders is through Pledge 1% Boston, and Anetakis calls it a natural extension of TUGG’s work connecting local tech entrepreneurs to the broader community.

Anetakis says, “Through Pledge 1% we can offer an equity pledge as a way of giving back while the Boston Foundation can help companies and entrepreneurs execute on their pledge through not only infrastructure but also education.” Rich Palmer, CTO and Co-Founder of Gravyty, a data analytics company, adds, “By partnering with and funding accelerators such as MassChallenge and launching ambitious programs such as Pledge 1% Boston, the Boston Foundation has not only made itself highly relevant to the startup community; it has given us a chance to succeed, and therefore be in a position to give back in a way that is meaningful.” Gravyty and Ovia Health were the first members of Pledge 1% Boston.

Ovia Health’s Wallace says, “I’ve been very fortunate. I went through my entire education in private schools on full financial aid. It gave me an opportunity to transcend my background, which has been incredibly meaningful. So I absolutely wanted to try to do that for others. When my wife and I learned about Pledge 1% Boston, I knew the Boston Foundation was an organization I wanted to be involved with.” Besides everyone mentioned in this story, 25 other people or companies have made pledges.

“People in this city are altruistic in a way that I don’t think they are anywhere else,” says Wallace. “They care deeply about doing work that reflects their values. Being surrounded by so many smart people who are doing so many diverse things makes it really interesting here.”



Part of Change


Building on his experience with AmeriCorps and as a personal trainer, Jon Feinman founded InnerCity Weightlifting to engage young people at greatest risk of violence.


Innovation Economy Leadership Council

The Innovation Economy Leadership Council (IELC) is a group of leaders from tech, life sciences, venture and other fields who help the Boston Foundation build relationships within their community and inform Foundation strategy on that front. Founding IELC member C.A. Webb, Co-Founder and Partner at _UnderscoreVC, says, “The Boston Foundation is beginning to play a significant role in connecting leaders of Boston's thriving technology and life sciences companies with the issues and opportunities found in Boston's neighborhoods. Through highly leveraged tools like Pledge 1% Boston, the Foundation helps these leaders connect the dots between their success and opportunities to move the needle on social issues that matter to them and to Greater Boston.” Anetakis, Fagnan, Palmer and Wallace are also IELC members.


Remembering Peter Karoff






Honoring Peter Karoff


The Karoff Fund for Leadership in Philanthropyhas been established at the Boston Foundation to honor and remember Peter’s ideas and work. Contributions will be used to fund and disseminate research, writing and other projects that inform, inspire and support the next generation of philanthropic leaders. Donations may be made online or via check sent to the Karoff Fund for Leadership in Philanthropy, c/o the Boston Foundation, 75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA 02116.



In 1989, Peter Karoff launched a “social experiment” called The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI)—to see if the idea of strategic philanthropy, when applied to a broad group of donors, could increase impact and encourage greater generosity. On March 9, 2017, Karoff passed away at the age of 79—a profound loss for TPI, the Boston Foundation and so many others in the world of philanthropy.

“Peter was a true pioneer, a vital presence and an extraordinary thought partner,” says Leslie Pine, Managing Partner at TPI who participated in the founding of TPI. “He had a way of elevating every conversation. Beyond his commitment to philanthropy, Peter was a poet, a lover of words and ideas and a special man of great passion and intellect.”

Under Karoff’s guidance, TPI evolved into a leading influence in the world of philanthropy, directing more than one billion dollars and influencing billions more on behalf of its clients. “Peter worked tirelessly to lead, inspire and challenge everyone around him to envision a better world, and to find ways to contribute to that effort,” says Ellen Remmer, Senior Partner at TPI.

Building on its consulting work and field-building efforts, TPI launched the Center for Global Philanthropy in 2010 to be a catalyst for improving the understanding, practice and impact of philanthropy in addressing global challenges. Today, working with clients locally, nationally and globally, TPI provides strategic advising and program management services, conducts research on efforts to promote effective philanthropy, and designs and manages innovative partnerships.

In 2012, TPI merged with the Boston Foundation and since then has served as a distinct operating unit of the Foundation, extending its capacity to advise individuals, families and companies on ways to focus and increase the impact of their giving.

“Peter believed in the potential of philanthropy to transform lives and entire communities,” says Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “The book he wrote in 2007, The World We Want, serves as a moral compass for those of us who care deeply about this sector and its future. The world has lost a great mind and a great man, and we are dedicated to honoring him through the work we do every day.”

A Transformative Gift






Curriculum Associates was founded in 1969 with the goal of making classrooms better places for teachers and students. Since then, the company has introduced numerous innovative products designed to give all students the chance to succeed.

The Boston Foundation is due to receive a donation—expected to total some $28 million—making it one of the largest single gifts in its 102-year history. The donation is from the Billerica-based education firm Curriculum Associates via the Iowa State University Foundation.

“A portion of this incredibly generous and transformative gift will be used to grow the Boston Foundation’s Permanent Fund for Boston, the principal charitable resource for the many nonprofits working on our region’s greatest challenges,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. In fact, the gift will be the largest source of growth for the Permanent Fund for Boston since the bequest financier Albert Stone made to the Foundation in 1959, a sum that started as $17 million but grew to nearly $20 million by the time the transaction was completed. It transformed the work of the Foundation at the time.

As a result of the gift, a Donor Advised Fund will also be created and additional resources will be invested in strategic grant making, especially in support of education-themed work. “The importance of this gift and the grant making and civic leadership work it will support cannot be overstated,” added Grogan.

The Boston Foundation’s gift came as Iowa State University announced that majority ownership of Curriculum Associates had been transferred to the Iowa State University Foundation. The gift to the Iowa State foundation is currently valued at approximately $93 million, making it one of the largest in the university’s history. The majority interest is being donated under a structure similar to nonvoting shares of stock. It is expected that the equity interest will be sold through a management-led sale of the company that will be directed by Curriculum Associates’ second largest equity holder, CEO Rob Waldron. The Boston Foundation will receive a percentage of the value of the gift.

“We are delighted to support the great work of the Boston Foundation with this gift,” said Waldron. “I have long admired this remarkable organization, and in my years as CEO of Jumpstart was fortunate to be the recipient of its support. We at Curriculum Associates are committed to giving back to our Greater Boston community, and this gift will directly impact many local organizations that support the students we serve.”



This generous gift from Curriculum Associates will increase the resources of the Boston Foundation’s endowment, the Permanent Fund for Boston, which is the most flexible fund it holds, giving staff and board members the crucial resources they need to respond to the most pressing issues facing contemporary Greater Boston.

For more about contributing to this unique fund, please contact Pamela Hurd at pam.hurd@tbf.org or 617-338-3910.

The Geography of Incarceration


The Geography of Incarceration, a report from the Boston Indicators ProjectMassachusetts Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and MassINC, revealed stark disparities in the distribution of Boston’s incarcerated population. The report showed heavy concentrations of people in the neighborhoods of Roxbury and Dorchester having spent time in the Nashua Street Jail or the Suffolk County House of Corrections, as compared to the number of crimes committed in those neighborhoods and to the incarcerated populations of other neighborhoods.


Beyond the wall




Reflecting the urgency of the incarceration issue, the Foundation hosted a separate event the week after the forum for donors and friends—a screening of the film Beyond the Wall. The documentary from Northern Lights Productions follows five Massachusetts men as they try to reclaim and reorganize their lives upon release from Middlesex County House of Correction, putting a human face on the statewide system. For more, visit beyondthewallfilm.com.

“Many people of color live in neighborhoods where every street contains a resident who has been incarcerated,” said lead author Ben Forman at a November forum at the Foundation. He added that Roxbury residents are incarcerated at twice the rate of Boston residents as a whole and that spending for incarceration is way out of balance with spending on prevention or diversion.

The forum included Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell, State Representative Evando Carvalho, Community Resources for Justice President and CEO John Larivee and Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins, who each brought a depth of knowledge and passion to the subject of criminal justice reform.

“Where are the resources being placed?” Carvhalo posed, and answered:

“In the system, not services. We need job training and education.” Campbell agreed and spoke with personal pain about the system that her own brothers could not avoid, even as she completed Boston Latin, Princeton and UCLA. “If we’re serious about breaking cycles of crime, addiction and poverty,” she said, “we have to do drastic things, creative new things.” Larivee urged legislators to stay on top of research about effective interventions, reinvest in the community and reduce the use of prisons generally. Sheriff Tompkins added his amen to that with a plea: “Put me out of business.”


Among the report’s recommendations are to: replace mandatory minimums with evidence-based approaches to sentencing that allow courts to tailor justice to the needs of the community; redesign houses of correction so that they excel at providing services; focus jail diversion and pretrial services on high incarceration rate communities; and develop complementary community-based strategies to support all of these strategies.

“This study vividly depicts the disproportionate impact that incarceration has had on Boston’s low-income residents of color, and describes the cascading negative effects, not just on the lives of the imprisoned, but on their families, neighborhoods and the city as a whole,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “The findings of this report are troubling, but they yield solid recommendations that should help the Massachusetts Justice Reinvestment Initiative as it reconsiders the operations and results of criminal justice practices here. As a community foundation whose mission is to build a city where justice and opportunity are extended to everyone, we believe the timing to address this issue is now—and a response is critical. We hope this report will contribute to the dialogue in a way that will help to move the needle in the direction of greater justice for all residents of Massachusetts, regardless of where they live.”





Luc Schuster recently joined the Boston Foundation as Director of the Boston Indicators Project, a research center at the Foundation. “I’m thrilled to have come on board to complete the Boston Indicators team,” said Schuster, who joins Stephen Chan, the Foundation’s Vice President for Strategy and Operations, and colleagues Anise Vance and Peter Ciurczak.

Schuster has worked at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center as Deputy Director and as a Senior Fellow. He has also done a range of public policy consulting, including providing support for the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials. He was a two-term member of the Cambridge School Committee and has a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

“In planning for the next phase of Indicators’ work, we’ve been gathering a range of great input from leaders in Boston’s civic community,” he reports. “We’re excited about where we’re headed. We’re overhauling bostonindicators.org, for instance, with the goal of making it a more dynamic hub of articles, factsheets, reports and data visualizations that are useful in real time for people engaged in efforts to make our city a better place for every resident.”


60 percent


The Growing Challenge of Family Homelessness


Family homelessness approximately doubled between 2008 and 2016, according to an Understanding Boston report, The Growing Challenge of Family Homelessness. On February 23, the Boston Foundation held a forum to discuss the report’s findings, which looked at homeless assistance for families in Massachusetts from 2008 to 2016. The report was prepared by the independent research firm Westat with data from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

The report revealed that the stereotype of “the homeless” as individuals panhandling on corners is more inaccurate today than ever. According to the report’s primary author, Westat Vice President Debra Rog, “Families and children make up the largest cohort of people who are homeless or on the brink of homelessness in Massachusetts.”

The average size of families in the system has increased, in part due to the presence of spouses. Almost 20 percent of families entering shelter in fiscal year 2016 included two adults; that figure was only 8 percent in fiscal year 2008.

A few other key findings emerged from the report. Some 60 percent of all homeless family members on any given day in Massachusetts are children under the age of 18. And, while the last two years studied by the authors saw a downward trend in family homelessness, the overall length of stay in shelter continues to increase.

Statistically, families struggling the most to exit and stay outside the system tend to be larger in size and headed by a female who is Latina or African American. In general, the report suggests—and the forum panelists reiterated—early intervention with support services beyond basic shelter should be a goal in the interest of reducing families’ need for shelter.

Panelist Rose Evans, Deputy Undersecretary of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, said that one of her biggest takeaways from the report is that “data matters and helps us tell our story and our narrative.” She thanked the Boston Foundation for supporting a full-time position to help the Department gather the data for the report.

Referring to the prevalence of families headed by Latina or African-American women, Libby Hayes, Executive Director of Homes for Families, said that there is a need to “confront the institutional racism” revealed in the report. Shiela Moore, CEO of Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center, explained that about 45 percent of the people her center serves are working and some 33 percent of those who are working are working full time.

The Director for the Corporation for Supportive Housing in Seattle, Debbie Thiel, traveled to Boston for the forum and shared her experiences, saying, “Since 2002, we have focused our resources on permanent housing and rapid re-housing and we have seen a decrease in the length of stay in our shelters as a result.” Several panelists pointed to the need for “more affordable housing” in the state.

In closing remarks, Stephen Chan, the Foundation’s Vice President of Strategy and Operations, said, “We can all see ourselves in this issue; every time we make our own choices about housing, we are part of a larger housing market.” He went on to comment on the power of data and linked the report to the Foundation’s annual Greater Boston Housing Report Card, which examines the area’s challenging housing market that is contributing to pushing so many families into homelessness.






Barry Bluestone has presented 14 annual Greater Boston Housing Report Cards at Boston Foundation forums.

Barry Bluestone has joined the Boston Foundation as a Senior Fellow. Bluestone, who founded and led the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University from 1999 to 2015, was also the founding Dean of Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs from 2006 to 2012. He is currently Russell B. and Andrée B. Stearns Trustee Professor of Political Economy in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.

A renowned expert in public policy, housing and urban development, Bluestone is well known as the principal author of the Boston Foundation’s annual Greater Boston Housing Report Card, which examines the state of the housing market and real estate industry, particularly where affordability is concerned. In his new role, Bluestone will continue to write the report card and more. “I hope to work with the Foundation on the critical problem of income inequality and lack of social mobility here in Boston,” he says, “and suggest concrete solutions to help all Bostonians and particularly their kids compete in and build on our strong economy for the future.”


Progress Amidst Challenges



The 2017 Boston Opportunity Agenda Report Card, an annual measure of the city’s progress on key education metrics, found that high school graduation, college enrollment and college completion rates continue to increase in Boston. The six-year college completion rate increased to 51.3 percent for 2009 graduates of the Boston Public Schools (BPS), an uptick from 50 percent for BPS graduates who completed high school in 2006. The report also found that the high school graduation rate went up for all three types of schools, including BPS, Charter public schools and Catholic schools.

The news was not as positive for efforts to build a strong educational foundation. In the 2015-2016 school year, only 61 percent of incoming kindergarten students were determined to have the necessary early learning skills to succeed and progress, a decrease of three percentage points from the prior year.

“Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has called for free universal pre-kindergarten,” said Kristin McSwain, Executive Director of the Boston Opportunity Agenda at the February 2 release event. “We believe the lack of growth in school readiness among our youngest students and in third-grade reading is further evidence to support the Mayor’s universal pre-K push.”

Mayor Walsh commented on the importance of data in tracking progress and pointed out that the volume of BPS 10th-graders completing state competency requirements increased five points, meaning that more students are on track to graduate from high school. “When we think about how to move our city forward,” he added, “the beginning of the story is education.”

For the first time in four years, the high school dropout rate increased slightly by .6 percent in Boston Public Schools for the 2014-2015 school year—the most recent year with complete data on this category. And while it isn’t possible to accurately measure dropout rates for parochial schools, Boston Charter public schools have demonstrated very low dropout rates, with just .25 percent of students dropping out in the 2014-2015 academic year.

“Our ambition is to build on almost 10 years of work in high school and college completion while simultaneously ensuring that the talent born and grown in Boston meets the needs of the 21st century economy of our city,” McSwain said. Reverend Ray Hammond, the chair of the Boston Opportunity Agenda, added, “We want all of our young people to become a part of the fabric of our city.”

The Power of Coaching






























A new report prepared for the Success Boston College Completion Initiative by the research firm Abt Associates shows that graduates of the Boston Public Schools who are receiving coaching through the initiative have a significant advantage over other students. Success Boston coached students are 11 percent more likely than non-coached peers to persist into the second year of college and 21 percent more likely to persist into the third year. Coached students also have a college grade point average that is 8 percent higher than non-coached students, spend 10 percent more time in good academic standing and are 9 percent more likely to navigate their way through the financial aid process. According to Abt’s Tamara Linkow, who presented the report at an Understanding Boston forum on March 23, the effects of coaching are “positive and large.” She characterized the third-year persistence results as “overwhelmingly large.”

“Success Boston coaches are literally changing lives,” said J. Keith Motley, Chancellor of UMass Boston, who pointed out that higher college graduation rates increase access to employment.

“There are real shortages of talented, degree-holding workers in many business sectors that are crucial to our economic health,” agreed Kenneth C. Montgomery, President and COO of Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. “This report is yet another encouraging sign that when our city comes together to support our graduates and help them advance to college, we all win.”

Elizabeth Pauley, the Boston Foundation’s Senior Director of Education, moderated the discussion, which included Greykia Harris, a Success Boston graduate from Northeastern, who said that her coach “instilled confidence and made me believe in my intelligence.” Gabrielle Guity, a Success Boston coach, described what coaches offer students as the “scaffolding that allows them to come into their own.” Valerie Roberson, President of Roxbury Community College, described Success Boston as “a village that is helping students do it together,” while Rahn Dorsey, Boston’s Chief of Education, said, “This report tells us that we are doing the right thing, but the ultimate goal is to get all our children through college.”

Success Boston is a partnership of the Boston Foundation, the City of Boston, the Boston Public Schools (BPS), 37 area institutions of higher education, led by University of Massachusetts Boston and Bunker Hill Community College, and local nonprofit partners, including the Boston Private Industry Council and uAspire, which provides financial advice to students.

By offering academic programming and college advising activities in high school, providing one-on-one coaching supports to students as they move into and through the first two years of college, and closely collaborating with local higher education institutions, Success Boston aims to help BPS graduates earn degrees and enter the local workforce successfully. The Boston Foundation funds and supports the nonprofit organizations that provide the one-on-one coaching for students. In 2014, the Boston Foundation received a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to expand its work. The $6 million Social Innovation Fund award gives the Foundation the resources necessary to expand Success Boston’s coaching model from serving 300 to 1,000 students from each of the BPS classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Success Boston coaches support students throughout the academic year, offering guidance to help them navigate through college to graduation. Coaches counsel students on life skills, study skills and academic achievement as well as jobs and careers.

“There is a tremendous amount of opportunity, especially in our region, for those who are prepared to take advantage of it and an unacceptable lack of opportunity for everyone else,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “In addition to the importance of offering equal opportunity to all of our city’s young people, graduates of Boston’s public schools represent a valuable resource that we cannot afford to waste.”






(From left): Former Governor Deval Patrick, Boston Foundation President and CEO Paul S. Grogan and Bunker Hill Community College President Pam Eddinger.

The 2017 Deval Patrick Prize went to Bunker Hill Community College for its Learn and Earn program, which places students in Greater Boston’s top corporations for hands-on experience. The Boston Foundation created the annual $50,000 prize to honor the former governor for his commitment to community colleges. The prize recognizes excellence in partnerships between employers and community colleges.

At the award ceremony, Patrick praised the Boston Foundation for its continuing commitment to community colleges: “The Boston Foundation continues to be the entity that brings us together and lifts us up to make not only community colleges better—but the community as a whole better.”


Backing Success Boston





Belden and Pamela Daniels are Boston Foundation donors who are major supporters of the Success Boston College Completion Initiative through their Donor Advised Fund, with a deep commitment through 2019. Over the last two years, the Daniels have given $300,000 to Success Boston. Backing Success Boston “brings our respective life concerns together in a way that feels meaningful to both of us,” says Pamela.

Belden was educated in law, economics and finance, and early on realized that his mission was to take the skills learned in the private sector and apply them to community economic development. He became a pioneer of social impact investing, in the United States and globally. Pamela has spent her life in education, as a student, teacher, parent, writer, dean, advisor and advocate. Together they have pursued their journeys of learning, engagement and impact—trying to make things better for individuals, cities, organizations and whole economies.

In the context of a rapidly growing technology and innovation economy in Massachusetts, Belden is concerned about the paradox of an ongoing gap—in which thousands of good jobs go unfilled while local, underserved populations suffer high unemployment. “We could fill this gap if we could get people of color and more women into STEM jobs,” he says. “We’re personally committed to the idea that coaching through college completion—and on into the first job—is the next big step.” In fact, the couple recently matched a Boston Foundation grant of $50,000 to Hack.Diversity, an internship-to-career tech mentoring program. (Seeabove for more on Success Boston andsee belowfor more on Hack.Diversity.)

The Daniels support Success Boston because it combines his desire to “participate in opening up the pipeline from schools to high-tech jobs” and her recognition of “the importance of creating an educational path that is workable and meaningful to a young person starting out.” As Pamela sums up, “We are in a time in our lives of de-accessioning and divestment of privilege. It is possible for us now—and compelling—literally to ‘spread the wealth,’ to deploy some of the means we have acquired through our own professional work to make a difference in worlds beyond our own.”


 Success Boston

Support Success Boston

To learn about opportunities to support this important
initiative, please contact Elizabeth Pauley
atElizabeth.Pauley@tbf.orgor 617-338-2685.

Opportunity in Change




 86 percent


Greater Boston Leaders







Succession graph



Early spring at the Boston Foundation has been warmed by enthusiastic crowds and blossoming ideas at events focused on several areas. On March 24, nonprofits took a close look at their own functioning at the release of an Understanding Boston report called Opportunity in Change: Preparing Boston for Leader Transitions and New Models of Nonprofit Leadership.

With the release of a report by that name from Third Sector New England (TSNE), it was clear that nonprofits throughout New England and in Greater Boston are, on the whole, unprepared for an oncoming wave of Baby Boom retirements and other leadership transitions.

The study shows that 36 percent of Greater Boston area leaders plan to leave their post within two years and another 42 percent plan to leave within five. And some 40 percent say they are “burned out.” But across all nonprofits, about 72 percent say they have no succession plan at all in place. These facts taken together look like an impending crisis. But, of course, the flip side of crisis is opportunity, and it is there that both the report and the forum to discuss it focused.

Transitions to new leadership offer the chance to do more than simply replace one individual with another, but rather to rethink the entire leadership structure of the organization, and at the same time potentially address other issues of longstanding concern—especially the lack of diversity (particularly at the top).

After the report presentation by author Hez Norton, a panel of thoughtful and candid leaders moderated by the Foundation’s Associate Vice President for Programs Jennifer Aronson discussed their experiences and the three action items the report recommends for organizations: Start the succession planning conversation now; consider structure; and develop an inclusive talent lens.

Richard Thal, Executive Director of Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corp., suggested approaching succession planning as you would a capital campaign, with a quiet phase and distinct goals and stages. “You can’t avoid the lame duck syndrome, and it’s going to involve some pain,” he said, but discussing it as a business process helps ease the awkwardness and lets everyone honor the leader they’ve had even as they realize that their thinking has to go beyond a “hero leader.”

Yolando Coentro, President and CEO of the Institute for Nonprofit Practice, shared her experience of coming in as a new and relatively young leader, upending the organizational structure by starting as Co-CEO with her predecessor. There was an understanding that that would evolve into her taking the reins completely, but no guarantee. It was successful but the lesson she learned was that a great deal of trust is needed among fellow leaders and board members.

Giles Li, Executive Director of Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, shared his own experiences that echoed that need for trust. “As a kid,” he said, “I thought my parents were fully formed people and everything they did was planned and intentional. As an adult and parent myself, I realize they were adapting and making it up on the fly… always learning and adapting to change. So it is with becoming an executive director and interacting with the board.” He felt he owed any success he had to having a board that helped him figure it out and allowed him to improve.

Tammy Dowley-Blackman, Principal of tbd group and Board Chair for TSNE, took that further, saying, “We make a mistake when we think it’s going to be easy [for a new leader], when we don’t give mentorship or even just say, ‘How are you?’” This can be exacerbated in organizations as they try to add diversity to their personnel but don’t know how to get beyond “checking the box.” Bringing on new leaders and board members offers a perfect opportunity to change the profile of the organization, but as Coentro pointed out, organizations need to create clear pathways to leadership for people who may have the talent and aptitude, but, like her in her early career, “had no idea how a person became an ED.”

Taking over a leadership role is always challenging, and if organizations aren’t mindful of and supportive through all that challenge entails, the road may be a little rough. Or as Dowley-Blackman more vividly put it, “It’s just hellified scary to be transitioning, then add layers of race and gender, even age… it [is] exhausting!” And in her case, that was for volunteer work. “I wouldn’t change where I am,” she makes clear, “but does getting there have to be by fire?”

Hard questions await many nonprofits in the coming years, with changing of the guard and changing of the environment we work in. The energy in the room gave confidence that we’ll meet those questions head on. As Hez Norton reminded us, in summing up the findings, “We are continually faced with great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.”

Hack Diversity







Boston’s otherwise thriving tech economy suffers two seemingly opposite ailments: jobs going unfilled and potential talent going undeveloped. The result for businesses is a strikingly non-diverse yet understaffed tech workforce. Enter Hack.Diversity, a new social enterprise that bridges those gaps with intentional recruiting, training and mentoring. Computer science or engineering students from two- or four-year urban colleges can apply. Selected students receive career and interview coaching, bond as a network and, once they graduate, are paired with mentors and start paid internships at some of the fastest growing companies in Boston. Hack.Diversity is starting with a focus on black and Latino tech workers, but hopes to expand to include other underrepresented populations. Its leaders aim to make Boston a national model for other cities. In late 2016, the Boston Foundation and the SkillWorks Funders Group co-invested $50,000 in support of Hack.Diversity’s launch; further funding comes from a donor advised fund at the Boston Foundation.

The Boston Foundation has been “
There at the Beginning” with critical early funding for more than 100 great ideas and new nonprofits in all areas of community life.

Board of Directors

Rosalin Acosta
Zamawa Arenas
Andrew J. Arnott
Brian Conway
Sandra Edgerley, Chair
Michael R. Eisenson


Grace Fey
Paul C. Gannon
Rev. Gregory G. Groover
Paul W. Lee
Linda Mason, Vice Chair
Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan


J. Keith Motley
Peter Nessen
Ronald P. O’Hanley
Greg Shell
Scott Squillace, Esq.
Paul S. Grogan, ex officio

Senior Staff

Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO

Stephen Chan
Vice President for Strategy and Operations

Orlando Watkins
Vice President for Programs

Kate R. Guedj
Vice President and Chief Philanthropy Officer

Alfred F. Van Ranst Jr.
Chief Financial Officer

Keith A. Mahoney
Vice Presidentof Communications and Public Affairs

George Wilson
Chief Investment Officer



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