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Paul Grogan announces plans to step down as President and CEO of the Boston Foundation

Will lead Foundation through search for successor, closing out two decades of leadership

January 28, 2020

Paul Grogan at Centennial
Paul Grogan at the Boston Foundation Centennial Gala in 2015.

Boston – The Boston Foundation today announced that Paul Grogan will be stepping down as its President and CEO, after nearly 20 years of transformative leadership during which the organization became a national model for community foundations and set a new standard for civic engagement.

Grogan and the Boston Foundation Board of Directors mutually agreed on a plan that ensures Grogan will continue as President and CEO until a successor is named. The Board of Directors is launching a national search for Grogan’s successor, chaired by Board members Elyse Cherry and J. Keith Motley.

“The past 18 years have been a tremendously rewarding experience,” said Grogan.  “Leading such an important institution and working with so many talented partners, including the Foundation’s board, staff, donors and many others, has been the opportunity of a lifetime. The decision to step down has been difficult, but I take this step knowing that I have achieved the goals I established for myself when I first took on the role of President and CEO. I believe that now is the time to pass the baton and focus my energies on new challenges.”

“Paul has created a new vision of philanthropy, not just for the Boston Foundation, but for community foundations across the country,” said Foundation board chair Sandra Edgerley. “His visionary model is seen as the blueprint for these organizations as they strive to leverage diverse talents and marshal private resources in service of the most vulnerable. Paul’s passion for bettering the community is unrivaled, and his power to bring leaders together to drive change is unquestioned. It’s been a true privilege to work alongside Paul and watch the Foundation’s transformation under his leadership.” 

The planned transition comes at a time of unprecedented strength for the Boston Foundation. Since 2001 when Grogan was appointed to head the Foundation, the organization has been a main driver for substantive change to benefit communities. The Foundation is widely recognized for its ability to convene diverse groups of leaders from sectors across Greater Boston to confront the pressing issues facing the city, including public education, health care, and housing, among many others. 

During his tenure, the Foundation’s assets have doubled to $1.3 billion, and the Foundation’s grant making in partnership with its donors has tripled to $150 million a year. Through gifts from its endowment, the Permanent Fund for Boston, and in collaboration with more than 1,000 donors, the Foundation supports a wide range of nonprofits that have proven they can make a difference in people’s lives. 

But while the Foundation rapidly grew its assets and grantmaking during Grogan’s nearly two decades as President and CEO, his biggest innovation has been in redefining the role the community foundation plays in the civic life of Greater Boston and Massachusetts. Guided by Grogan, the Foundation has often led the way on policy debates and played an important advocacy role that many community foundations have traditionally avoided, empowering a new generation of civic organizations and leaders. 

“As much as any organization in the region, the Boston Foundation has been a part of positive change,” said Governor Charlie Baker.  “Under Paul’s leadership, it has been relevant, important, and a game changer, particularly in the area of improving public education in a way that has helped so many people over so many years.” 

Grogan’s commitment to bringing financial equity to Boston’s communities has led to partnerships that have resulted in systemic improvements, such as Success Boston, which has increased the number of Boston Public Schools graduates completing higher education by 77 percent;  StreetSafe Boston, a youth violence prevention program;  Project Catapult, an innovative workforce development model co-created with SkillWorks, a Boston Foundation-led funders collaborative, and the Boston Opportunity Agenda, a historic public/private partnership of the Boston Foundation, the City of Boston, the Boston Public Schools, and other leading public charities and foundations. The Foundation also played a pivotal role in winning passage of sweeping criminal justice reform in Massachusetts, which has rolled back the inequitable “get tough” policies of the 1980s and 1990s.

“The Boston Foundation plays a very important role in our city, as a funder, source of crucial data and analysis, and catalyst for change," said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "Paul Grogan has been at the helm of this organization for many years, and has helped excel its prominence as an active partner in making Boston a better place for all. I thank him for all he’s done for the people of Boston, and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

As the largest community foundation in New England, the Foundation has continued to support many of Greater Boston’s most effective nonprofits, while simultaneously supporting bold, promising ideas, keeping with Grogan’s belief that nonprofit leaders are the best stewards of resources and drivers of innovation. These investments in small, high-potential grantees have helped grow some of the region’s most transformative organizations, such as Social Finance, which mobilizes financial strategies to support innovation, the Boston Children’s Chorus and workforce development innovators NECAT, Hack.Diversity, Resilient Coders and Year Up.

“The Boston Foundation took a chance by supporting a new nonprofit that didn’t have a long track record. It saw the potential in connecting young adults in need of opportunity with companies that need their talent,” said Year Up CEO Gerald Chertavian. “That initial grant was great, but even more important was the stamp of approval. The Foundation is highly respected and the fact that it chose to support Year Up really helped to launch us. Since then, we have served over 28,000 young adults and provided interns to over 350 corporate partners.”

The Boston Foundation has also become a trusted source for rigorous nonpartisan studies of urban issues. Through this work, the Foundation has commissioned and published nearly 200 cutting-edge pieces of research, hosted hundreds of public forums, formed task forces and coalitions, and informed and influenced legislative solutions to ignite action on some of the city’s most urgent challenges. 

Its annual Greater Boston Housing Report Card directly led to the passage of the state’s “smart growth” housing legislation. Its research in education helped spur major education reform that fueled public schools with new federal funding and classroom innovation. In the arts, Boston Foundation research helped spark the creation of Live Arts Boston, which directly invests in a diverse cohort of working artists to strengthen the cultural landscape across Boston.

“The Boston Foundation’s research has continued to provide invaluable insights into areas such as housing affordability, educational attainment, and economic mobility that get at the heart of the issues facing every resident of Greater Boston, whether White, Black, Latino, or Asian, rich or poor, immigrant or native born,” said Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, longtime CEO of Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) and a member of the Boston Foundation board since 2017. “Paul’s willingness to invest in research as a key component of TBF’s work has brought key issues to light.”

Under Grogan’s tenure, the Foundation launched the Annual Campaign for Civic Leadership, which today raises funds to support its ambitious menu of research, policy and convening work while ensuring the Foundation provides a maximum level of financial and other support to nonprofits.

“I joined the Foundation because the range and reach of the work under Paul had no equal in the city,” said Robert Lewis Jr., a former Vice President for Program at the Foundation and the Founder and President of the BASE.  “I like to say that an important part of leadership is showing up, and Paul showed up everywhere in this city, from the boardroom to the block.”

Prior to his appointment to the Boston Foundation in 2001, Grogan served as Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs at Harvard University and as a Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School. During his time at Harvard, he spearheaded efforts that led the university to make unprecedented investments in the Boston-area community, including $21 million for affordable housing and $5 million for the Harvard After-School Initiative.   More importantly, Paul helped repair the town-gown dispute created by Harvard’s acquisition of property in Allston-Brighton and paved the way for the important developments in affordable housing and transportation on the site today.

“Paul came to Harvard at a key time in its relationship with the city of Boston.  He helped the university become a more thoughtful and collaborative community partner,” said Harvard President Larry Bacow.  “As a result of his superb leadership of The Boston Foundation, Paul strengthened countless non-profit organizations throughout the city.  Boston is a far better and stronger community because of his good efforts.”

Grogan was President and CEO of the nonprofit organization Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), the nation’s largest community development intermediary.  During his tenure, LISC raised and invested more than $3 billion in private capital for inner-city revitalization efforts across America. A leading expert on urban revitalization, Grogan co-authored the book “Comeback Cities” with Tony Proscio, which was reviewed by the columnist Ron Brownstein as “arguably the most important and insightful book on the American city in a generation.”

Grogan also served Mayors Kevin H. White and Raymond L. Flynn in a variety of positions.  He headed Boston’s neighborhood revitalization efforts in the early 1980s, helping to pioneer a series of public-private ventures that have been widely replicated by other cities.  

He graduated with honors in American History from Williams College in 1972 and holds a Master’s degree in Administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  In 1997, Williams College awarded Mr. Grogan the Bicentennial Medal for his leadership in inner-city revitalization efforts. 

He is the recipient of five honorary degrees, has been recognized four times by The NonProfit Times through its annual “Power & Influence Top 50” list from 2013 to 2016, and was named one of America’s Top 25 “Disruptive Leaders” by Living Cities in 2016. Grogan is a founder and director of The Community Development Trust, the nation’s first real estate investment trust dedicated to affordable housing, and has been a trustee of Williams College and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.