This post in our Adaptable Funder series focuses on community foundations, with an interview with Paul Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation (TBF). As the full scope of the COVID-19 crisis came into focus, few in philanthropy were as close to the front lines as community foundations. The depth and breadth of the inequities US community foundations had been tackling became clearer to others, and when the rising hum of demand for social justice and racial equity turned into a roar in late May, community foundations again were looked to as resources for insight as well as outreach and support.

Of the approximately 800 community foundations in the US, the Boston Foundation has become an acknowledged leader and mentor as the entire sector responds to current crises while also preparing for the long term. The Boston Foundation was launched in 1915, its early work focusing on those struggling economically in Greater Boston. In 1960, a large bequest enabled the Foundation to become more proactive, providing seed funding for new ideas and nonprofits, extending its reach more solidly into education, health, housing, jobs, and the arts. In the wake of unrest in the city in following decades, TBF launched anti-poverty and social justice initiatives, and attracted new donors while changing its structure for more stable footing. Paul Grogan took the reins in 2001, leveraging his experience in government, academia, and community development to transform TBF into a major civic leader focused not only on support for those in need but also on high-impact initiatives including legislative reform for systemic change in health care, education, and housing. As Paul notes, the evolution of the Foundation into a national thought leader and trusted activist organization enabled its quick and powerful crisis response this year. We hope the insights into TBF’s approach and strategies, both before and in response to the pandemic, spark ideas not only within philanthropic circles but also within broader communities seeking to rally and unify key partners in the weeks and months ahead.

Read more about the Boston Foundation at The Philanthropic Institute.