Boston Foundation keeps grantmaking steady despite drop in asset value

New Board Chair announced as Foundation reports on year’s achievements

June 25, 2009

Boston – The Boston Foundation announced today that more money will be made available through its core discretionary grants program for the 2010 fiscal year, which begins July 1, than was distributed in the past fiscal year, despite the economic crisis and plunging stock market and a sharp decrease in national philanthropic giving. The Foundation expects to distribute $17.2 million in discretionary grants in FY 2010, compared to $16.9 million for the fiscal year that ends June 30. This stands in contrast to the assets of the Foundation, which have lost approximately 20 percent of their value in the past year, currently standing at $763 million. That loss is small compared to losses posted by many institutions.

“Our continued financial strength stands as a great tribute to our Board of Directors and to the members of our investment committee, who planned ahead during the good years to secure our ability to provide support to Greater Boston during difficult times,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Foundation. “Having this strength in our discretionary grant-making is particularly important because it fuels our efforts to address critical challenges facing the region at a time when we need to foster innovation across a broad agenda.”

In particular, he cited two strategies that have proved effective. A so-called smoothing mechanism averages asset values over a period of five years. That reduces the potential swing in available funds between high-growth and low-growth years. The second strategy has been a campaign to increase planned giving that resulted in a rise in bequests to the Boston Foundation's Permanent Fund for Boston, a source of giving that is less affected by swings in the financial markets. The Foundation's Board has also maintained the level of distribution of funds at 6 percent of assets per year, against a more standard distribution figure of 5 percent used by many foundations.

Grogan also noted that the Civic Leadership Fund of the Boston Foundation successfully achieved its financial goal in fiscal year 2010, raising over $1 million in the past year. The Civic Leadership Fund helps to pay for original research commissioned by the Foundation as well as forums and convenings used to build a consensus-based regional civic agenda. The Fund was launched in 2003, raising almost $330,000 its first year.

Changes in leadership
In addition to the announcement of the Foundation's quarterly grants, the Board of Directors announced the election of Michael B. Keating as Chair of the Board. He succeeds the Rev. Ray Hammond, who stepped down today because of term limits. Hammond first joined the Board in 2000 and was named Chair in 2002. Keating was initially named to the Board in 2004. He is Partner at the Boston law firm of Foley Hoag where he serves as principal trial attorney and Chair of the Litigation Committee. Keating currently serves as a member of the Board of the Boston Children’s Museum and is a Trustee of Williams College. He is a past President of the Boston Bar Association.

Catherine D’Amato was named Vice Chair of the Board. D’Amato is President and CEO of the Greater Boston Food Bank, New England’s largest hunger relief organization. A member of the Boston Foundation Board since 2004, she succeeds Carol F. Anderson, who also stepped down because of term limits. Anderson has served on the Board since 2000 and as Vice Chair since 2005. D’Amato has been widely recognized for her work combating hunger, receiving a Pinnacle Award from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in 2008. She serves on numerous boards, including the Massachusetts Nutrition Board and the Massachusetts Food Association. She is a former member of the national Board of Governors of the Human Rights Campaign.

In addition to the changes in leadership, three new members of the Board were named.

Grace Fey is President of Grace Fey Advisors and is a former partner at Frontier Capital Management Co., LLC, where she served as Executive Vice President and Director. She is a Trustee of the John Hancock Financial Services Funds and a member of the Foundation Board and the Investment Committee of the University of Massachusetts. She is an Overseer of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Board of the United Way. Fey is a member of the President’s Council of Massachusetts General Hospital, among other board appointments.

Greg Shell is a Senior Equity Research Analyst at Columbia Management Group, the investment management division of Bank of America. He came to Columbia Management Group from Bain Capital, where he was a consultant in the Strategy practice and in the Private Equity Group. He serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for Roxbury Preparatory Charter, is a member of the Board of The Partnership, the Trust for Public Land and the Museum of African American History, among other board memberships.

John Simon is co-Founder and Managing Director of General Catalyst Partners, a venture capital and private equity firm based in Cambridge that invests in new and existing technologies. He is also the founder of the GreenLight Fund Network, a Boston-based philanthropy that catalyzes the replication and growth of innovative nonprofit organizations. He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organizations, and is a co-founder and trustee of the Steppingstone Foundation, which prepares urban children for educational opportunities that lead to college.

A year of high-profile initiatives
As the Foundation's Fiscal Year concludes June 30, Grogan noted one of its most ambitious private-public partnerships is being launched. StreetSafe Boston was designed to address the challenge of youth violence, recently on the rise in the city’s neighborhoods.

“A rising tide of violence threatens to undermine the great progress made across the city and region,” said Grogan. “Apart from the destabilizing effect of violence on our neighborhoods, our young people can’t focus on the education they need when they are distracted by this threat in their community—and the impact of each shocking act of violence ripples across the whole city.”

StreetSafe Boston represents a collaboration including the City of Boston, the Police Department, local faith-based leadership through the Black Ministerial Alliance, the Ten Point Coalition, as well as nonprofit organizations rooted in the city’s neighborhoods. The program will place additional Street Workers into specific neighborhoods where much of the city’s violent crime arises to connect with potential offenders and connect them to a host of services designed to create alternatives to gang involvement and criminal activity.

Grogan also cited a year of high-profile education reports that have identified the characteristics of successful schools and programs based on this new research addressing critical needs for young area residents. In specific, he cited a program designed to increase college success for Boston school graduates, in partnership with the City of Boston, local universities and the Boston Private Industry Council that will provide services and support to graduating students as they begin their post-secondary education. That effort grew out of a ground-breaking report by the PIC and funded by the Boston Foundation which showed that the college completion rate for Boston Public School students was approximately 36 percent, a grim outcome in a region whose economy relies on jobs that require college and post-graduate degrees.

A later report, entitled  Informing the Debate , tapped a team of researchers from Harvard and MIT to design and implement a first-ever study that compared performance by students in charter, pilot and traditional schools in Boston that established that charter schools, in particular, with longer school days and greater school autonomy demonstrated a significant ability to close the achievement gap between white and minority students.

The current economic crisis has had particular impact on the nonprofit sector, through state budget cuts and a decrease in resources available through philanthropy. A report published one year ago by the Foundation, entitled  Passion & Purpose , tracked structural weakness in the sector—notably the proliferation of organizations competing for limited resources and often offering overlapping missions. The Foundation followed that report by a special convening held in October of 2008, gathering organizations that offer help to households in distress to discuss the coming winter and identify ways to respond to a season widely anticipated as “a perfect storm” of need.  The report was further updated by a White paper published in May, tracking the ongoing impact of the crisis on the nonprofit sector—and on the lives of area residents. Both the White Paper and the Passion & Purpose report are available on the Boston Foundation website.

Indicating the scale of distress already apparent at the October forum, Joseph P. Kennedy, Chair and President of Citizens Energy, said “Phone lines set up so people could ask for help generated 250,000 calls the first day and continue to produce 50,000 calls a day.”

Scores of leaders from organizations on the frontlines attended, with a panel including representatives from Citizen’s Energy, the Greater Boston Food Bank,  the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs; and Boston’s Commission of Elder Affairs. A special announcement of $500,000 in supplemental grants was announced by the Boston Foundation to increase the capacity of the region’s key organizations that help provide food and heat to the needy, a sum later increased to $750,000 as a result of contributions by the Foundation's donors. In addition, organizations agreed to give more visibility to the full range of supports available—so that food banks would education their clients about programs providing free heating oil while housing programs would promote resources for older residents provided by the City of Boston.

The Boston Foundation's sixth annual survey of the regional housing market was published in late October, in the midst of a gathering economic crisis. It addressed the cumulative effects of years of undersupply and high median housing process and the collapse of the mortgage industry that resulted in sharply increased numbers of foreclosures. In a timely convening, Economist Karl Case, one of the nation’s leading housing experts; Barry Bluestone, Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University; Timothy Warren, CEO of the Warren Group; Elyse Cherry,  CEO of Boston Community Capital; and Alicia Sasser, an Economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston discussed the growing decline in equity and the implications for the region.

Bluestone warned of great and increasing destabilization in neighborhoods—typically poor, minority neighborhoods—where subprime mortgages were concentrated.

“The trend could undo many years of progress made in combating urban blight,” said Bluestone.

“The need for direct assistance is often great,” said Grogan. “But we also have to find the opportunities for meaningful and effective change that times of distress can create. We speak of the utility of trouble as a way to remind ourselves that times like these can also serve as seed beds for powerful new ideas that will serve the region in the future.”


The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with assets of $763 million.  In Fiscal Year 2008, the Foundation and its donors made close to $79 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of $113 million. The Foundation is made up of some 900 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.