Katie Everett, Executive Director, The Lynch Foundation
Amanda Northrop, Vice President, State Street Foundation
Elizabeth Pauley, Senior Program Officer, Education, The Boston Foundation
Joel B. Swets, Executive Director, Cummings Foundation
Organizational Snapshots & Websites:
The Boston Foundation
As Greater Boston's community foundation, the Boston Foundation devotes its resources to building and sustaining a vital, prosperous city and region, where justice and opportunity are extended to everyone. We fulfill this mission in three principal ways: Making grants to nonprofit organizations and designing special funding initiatives to address the community's critical challenges; Working in partnership with donors and other funders to achieve high-impact philanthropy; and Serving as a civic hub and center of information, where ideas are shared, levers for change identified, and common agendas for the future are developed.
Established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings of Winchester, MA, Cummings Foundation, Inc. is one of the largest private operating foundations in New England. Based in Woburn, it has been the beneficiary of substantial contributions from the Cummings Family, often through commercial real estate firm Cummings Properties, LLC. Cummings Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including Veterinary School at Tufts, LLC and two New Horizons retirement communities, in Marlborough and Woburn. Cummings Foundation’s grant-making affiliates support nonprofits serving Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties in Massachusetts as well as a limited number of international organizations that focus primarily on Rwanda.
The Lynch Foundation
The Lynch Foundation forges partnerships with nonprofit organizations whose innovative ideas have the potential to sustain, multiply and influence the lives of others. The Lynch Foundation primarily supports four areas of giving: education, cultural and historic preservation, health care and wellness, and the religious and educational efforts of the Roman Catholic Church. The foundation provides the resources and support needed to help its grantees succeed in the Greater Boston community.
State Street Foundation
State Street’s charitable arm, State Street Foundation, makes grants to nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations in 26 countries. The Foundation’s primary strategic focus is education and workforce development following their belief that the most effective way to improve the overall well-being of our communities is to help disadvantaged individuals earn and make a living. By keeping a sharp focus on education and work, they bring lasting economic benefits to the communities where they live and work.
How are your funding priorities related to Gateway cities?
- State Street Foundation – giving restricted to Boston and Quincy where they have a business presence, recommend looking at community foundations in that area or reaching out to them to see if they have any suggestions for you
- Cummings Foundation – focuses on 3 counties of Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex. 80% of the work of the applicant must happen in those counties, they have a sweet spot for small-medium sized orgs.
- The Lynch Foundation – Depends, they have funded Gateway Cities in the past, but it really depends on the opportunity, the leadership of the organization, and the need you are trying to address
How does your organization feel about reach out phone calls? If denied funding, will you provide feedback?
- Lynch Foundation- Will always provide feedback, but may not always take calls. Guidelines are outlined very clearly on the website and so all the information you need is there once you do your homework. Won’t take calls often out of mutual respect for nonprofit’s time and their own time.
- The Boston Foundation- Do encourage applicants to reach out during the process, but do do your homework from the website first. Open Door staff is super accessible and eager to talk to applicants.
- State Street Foundation – Don’t reach out if you haven’t done your homework yet, check out their funding area to see if you align. Open to phone call for what might be the best fit.
- Cummings Foundation – prefer organizations to decide for themselves whether they are a good fit or not.
TAKEAWAY: Don’t call until you’ve done your homework and learned everything you can about the funding priorities, geographies, application process of a foundation. Respect each other’s time! Decide for yourselves if you are a good fit if possible.
What are you perspectives on measurement of impact?
- State Street Foundation – impact framework is important, their preference is to fund an organization over time
- The Boston Foundation – cares a lot about measurement, wants to know how you learn from the work you’re doing and can then take that to amplify impact
- Quantifiable outcomes – within a reasonable amount of time
- But much of the work is about people and so numbers don’t always paint that story, qualitative outcomes in the form of individual stories is helpful as well
- The Lynch Foundation – Evaluation always looks different, portfolio is very diverse so they don’t always focus hard on evaluation. Quantitative information is important but qualitative is what drives a lot of decisions.
- Cummings Foundation – Need to have more than just a great idea, but also an idea of how to measure it.
TAKEAWAY: Measure your outcomes quantitatively and know how to also communicate about it qualitatively.
How do you measure process and healthiness of partnerships? How much do you prioritize capacity building?
- State Street Foundation- there is no fund for capacity building specifically, but they do try to fund across that. Generally support program specific and general operating funds. Recommend incorporating capacity building as a line item on programs/ general operating applications
- Cummings Foundation – No specific capacity building funds but some asks have been successful. Generally support programs and general operating.
- The Boston Foundation- Open Door grant programs. No explicit capacity building funds but interested as much in programmatic outcomes as growth of organizations, support General Operating.
- The Lynch Foundation – Leave it up to organizations to tell them what they need, up to your discretion how to spend those funds, 80% of theirs goes to general operating
How does you foundation specifically address racial and socio economic inequality in the grantmaking process?
- The Lynch Foundation – open, blind application process, accessible to everyone, working hard to improve
- The Boston Foundation- Mission is focused on social justice so they care a lot about this. Open Door grantmaking – available to anyone with a good idea and process is made equitable. Work hard to have a diverse portfolio eg geographically in Greater Boston, budget size of orgs, look at board & leadership demographic compared to population they serve. Still something that needs ongoing attention and support.
How do you look at wide vs deep when it comes to impact of organizations you support?
- The Lynch Foundation – They both have value, for them it depends on what you are trying to do and what you’re saying you’re doing. Trust that you are doing really good work and someone will want to support it.
- The Boston Foundation – Know who you are and be that. Don’t need to add on extra programs that you think funders want. No hard and fast rule about wide vs deep – diverse portfolio. This is where measurement comes in – how do you talk about the work?
- Pay attention to how the donor talks about their work too. If they’re talk about proof points they probably support organizations that support a smaller number of people more deeply. If they’re talking about systems change they are probably engaged in serving a larger number.
- State Street Foundation – Be intentional about why you’ve chosen a particular program model and be able to articulate that decision.
What makes a good proposal?
- You’ve done your homework and know what the funding priorities of a foundation are
- You can articulate what program model is and what the impact is
- Know the population you’re serving and can articulate how the program model is tailored to that population’s needs
- Know where you sit in the landscape, how you compare to other programs and what sets you apart to make you unique
- Write well and concisely
- In plain English be able to describe what you do and how you will know how you have done it, no jargon
- Answer the question that is asked and be clear
- Compare qualitative and quantitative metrics – explain how you will measure, but also know a personal story goes a long way