In 1915, on the brink of America’s involvement in World War I, Greater Boston’s community foundation was founded by a father and son team—Charles E. and Charles M. Rogerson, with the son becoming the first director. In just two years, businessman James Longley left an astounding $4 million to the foundation, the largest gift to any community foundation for many years to come, making the foundation the first in the country to make grants. For the next four decades, the foundation primarily responded to the needs of Boston’s impoverished immigrants and laborers, with major funding helping to ease the pressures of two world wars, the Great Depression, and the polio epidemic of the 1950s.
Today, 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. It fulfills this mission in three principal ways: by making grants to nonprofit organizations and designing special funding initiatives to address this community’s critical challenges, by working in partnership with donors and other funders to achieve high-impact philanthropy, and by serving as a civic hub and center of information, where ideas are shared, levers for change are identified, and common agendas for the future are developed.
Program Information: The health and wellness impact area strives to lower rates of obesity in Boston and Massachusetts, as well as to reduce health care costs through a greater focus on prevention. To achieve this, the foundation invests in increasing access to school-based youth physical activity and addressing obesity in the early childhood period. Additionally, it focuses on reducing health disparities and health care costs through investing in cross-sector approaches that address the social determinants of health. This impact area focuses on three arenas: youth physical activity, early childhood obesity prevention, and health and social environment.
Total Assets: $960,642,000 FY16
Amount Dedicated to Health-Related Grants: $1.26 million FY16
- Special Initiatives and/or Representative Health and Human Services Grants
Health Starts at Home (HSAH)—HSAH is a four-year initiative that brings together housing and health care organizations to support work that demonstrates the positive benefits of stable, affordable housing on children’s health outcomes. The initiative is hosted by the Boston Foundation and made possible by the support of other funders, including The Kresge Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, Partners HealthCare, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. ($2.9 million)
Playworks New England—Playworks is a core physical activity partner that has received multi-year grants to transform recess into a safe, fun, and inclusive time that gets children physically active, improves school climate, and reduces bullying. Playworks serves 75 schools in New England, with a priority on the Boston, Massachusetts neighborhoods of Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury. ($975,000)
MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Kraft Center for Community Health (Partners HealthCare System)—MassGeneral Hospital for Children and The Kraft Center for Community Health created the “The First 1,000 Days” study. This five-year study uses a collective impact approach to develop, implement, and evaluate an intervention across early-life systems of health care, federal grant programs, and community health programs in Chelsea, Revere, and Dorchester. The goal of this investment is to prevent obesity, promote healthy routines and behaviors, and reduce health disparities among vulnerable children and families. ($925,000)
Health Leads—Health Leads is spearheading a three-year project to engage Boston, Massachusetts-based health centers in a collaborative that will better address patients’ social needs using Health Leads’ REACH tool. This technology program allows a health center’s staff to integrate social issues into the health records and health care of patients. The REACH tool will also allow health care centers to better quantify program quality and value, and increase program impact per dollar. The Health Leads model is being piloted in Greater Boston, but has the potential to be scaled and replicated nationally. ($290,000)
Strategic Changes in Grantmaking Direction
“Over the past decade, the Boston Foundation has moved our focus from access to health care to the determinants of health, working with our partners on making the healthy choice the easy choice. This change was the result of two factors: the passage of Massachusetts state law that provided health care access to nearly all residents, and our own research which showed that—while we have made significant progress in health care—we have not matched that progress in public health. As a community foundation, the Boston Foundation has been focusing the majority of our funding and advocacy in the health sector on programs and policies that support healthy choices at the local, neighborhood level.”
– Paul S. Grogan, Boston Foundation President