The Boston Foundation doubles annual gifts in 2007, nears $1 billion in assets

January 23, 2008

Boston – The Boston Foundation received more than $155 million in new gifts in the 2007 calendar year, more than double the amount in the previous year. The value of the Foundation’s assets rose to $964 million, up from $830 million at the start of the year. In the same year, over $92 million in grants—also the largest distribution in the Foundation’s history—were made to nonprofit organizations.

“The Boston Foundation is becoming the kind of philanthropic engine we hoped it could be,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the organization. “This level of support has allowed us to boost annual grantmaking from $33.2 million to just under $93 million in the past five years.”

This means the Boston Foundation and its donors distributed about 10 percent of its assets in the form of grants in the past year, double the standard pay-out rate of 5 percent used by most private foundations. During Grogan’s tenure as President and CEO, beginning with the 2002 fiscal year, the Foundation has distributed more than $373 million in aggregate to nonprofit organizations, the vast majority—almost 90 percent—within Greater Boston.

One factor that helped to boost the level of giving was the Boston Foundation’s ability to accept unusual or illiquid donations, according to Ruben Orduña, Vice President for Development at the Foundation. Recent examples include part of a painting by modern master Mark Rothko, and, in 2007, ceramic artworks valued at $15 million, by Brother Thomas Bezanson. Other significant gifts have included partnerships and complex real estate holdings.

“The Foundation has a lot to offer donors,” said Orduña. “An effective investment strategy and a remarkable set of advisors, deep experience with the issues and organizations that are shaping the region’s future, and a commitment to work closely with individual donors and their families—all of these elements mean that current donors work as ambassadors for us. In addition to their own giving, they bring new donors to us.”

Orduña cited an increase in bequests and other types of planned gifts which have targeted significant sums for the Permanent Fund for Boston, and said that increased visibility by the Foundation as a civic leader with a growing list of highly visible public policy achievements has encouraged donors who want their philanthropy to have greater strategic impact on the region, addressing challenges specific to Greater Boston.

“We take great pride in the fact that the Boston Foundation is clearly seen as a credible and effective partner in philanthropy,” said Grogan. “This extraordinary level of giving speaks to the power of collaboration and a commitment to the region—even in a time of economic uncertainty.”

Grantmaking: the bigger picture

Grantmaking at the Boston Foundation covers the full spectrum of life in the region, with the theme of extending opportunity to every member of the community. Within this range, the Foundation identifies three strategic issues: education, workforce development and housing. In each case, the challenge is to maintain the region’s economic competitiveness as global forces increasingly influence businesses and individuals to move in search of an environment where they can thrive, and to create ladders of upward mobility for disadvantaged populations.

Grants made by the Foundation often leverage additional funds. Recent examples include a $500,000 investment by the Boston Foundation in SkillWorks, a partnership designed to provide training needed to enable area residents to achieve jobs that can support families and offer professional opportunities for advancement. That original investment helped to leverage millions of dollars in additional workforce funding within the Commonwealth and $50 million in funds from other private and public sources for a national work training program.

Education was also an important area of grantmaking in the past year, as the Foundation promoted the idea of an “opportunity pipeline,” that integrates essential institutions and programs to educate and nourish local talent from pre-school through higher education. This included making available a fund of $840,000 to support the planning process for schools seeking to explore becoming Pilot Schools—Boston Public Schools with autonomy and flexibility. An Understanding Boston report in 2007 established the marked success of these schools, conceived and launched in Boston as a partnership between City Hall, the Boston School Department and the Boston Teachers Union.

Recent investments in the arts also paid off in 2007 when the state’s new Cultural Facilities Fund distributed $16.7 million in September to building projects for more than 60 arts and cultural organizations across the state. The effort to create new state investment in cultural facilities began with a Boston Foundation report in 2004, which catalyzed the creation of a broadly inclusive task force that included representatives form the cultural, civic and business sectors.

The foundation also played a leading role in the creation and funding of the Summer Safety Funding Collaborative, raising almost $900,000 to help support 75 neighborhood-based organizations serving thousands of Boston teenagers, in response to an increase in violence in recent years. In partnership with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Merrimack Valley and a host of other foundations, the Collaborative has succeeded in encouraging programs with strong performance records to offer more services for more hours—expanding as well in the spring and fall months.

“The extraordinary generosity of our donors make it possible for us to seek out innovative and high-impact organizations and give them support they need to address the challenges of our time,” said Robert Lewis Jr., Vice President for Program at the Boston Foundation, who oversees discretionary grantmaking. “We work hard to get at the heart of the challenges and opportunities that characterize life in Greater Boston today, looking for ways to use our resources to make that life more vibrant—to create greater opportunity—for everyone who lives here.”


The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with assets of over $964 million.  In 2007, the Foundation and its donors made more than $92 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of more than $155 million.  The Foundation is made up of some 850 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.  The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener, and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges.  For more information about the Boston Foundation, visit or call 617-338-1700.