The Pierce Trust: Small, But Accessible

One of the most aggravating aspects of fundraising is how many foundations don't accept unsolicited proposals. That includes some key funders in the Boston area, such as the Yawkey Foundations. Unless you have a special connection to programs officers or trustees at these closed-door foundations, you're pretty much out of luck. 

So it's always nice to come across a funder like the Harold Whitworth Pierce Charitable Trust, which leaves the door open to all qualified comers and focuses all of its giving on the Boston area. 

The Pierce Trust isn't a big funder by any stretch, with around $30 million in assets. The Trust was founded more than 50 years ago to honor its benefactor, a former partner of the Tucker, Anthony & R.L. Day investment banking firm, who died in 1958. Pierce held a seat on the Stock Exchange in the early Twentieth Century.

But while the Trust is small, it keeps administrative expenses very low and manages to spread its money pretty far. In 2012, the Trust granted over $1.3 million for educational programs, teacher training, open space preservation, and scientific research.

Over the years, grants from the Trust have supported scores of community-based educational, public green space, and capital projects, including the Pierce Hall at the New England Conservatory and MIT's boathouse on the Charles River.

Now back to the good news, about how any nonprofit has a shot at Pierce money. (Assuming they meet its guidelines.) The Pierce Trust not only provides legacy gifts to the Boston Foundation, but trustees also accept inquiry in two rounds of giving annually.

Awardees transect a wide spectrum of philanthropic outreach, from people teaching English as a second language, to capital improvements to historic buildings, to Living Classroom programs at Zoo New England.

Early in 2013, the Paul Revere House Education Center announced interior renovations were underway at the revolutionary patriot;s home with monies that included $25,000 Pierce Trust. These funds helped install handicapped-accessible features in the oldest house in downtown Boston.

The Trust also gave $35,000 in 2012 for restoration of the Hale Reservation's Powisset Lodge, which was destroyed by fire. The Hale property is an 1,130-acre wooded preserve on Storrow Pond, just outside Boston.

Another $17,000 from Pierce Trust was awarded to the Bostonian Society, for ventilation upgrades to the historic Old State House. And in July of 2012, Historic Boston opened Kittredge Park, where $60,000 from Pierce Trust funded the unique, urban green-space design.

Grants from the Trust range from $10,000 to $80,000 and last year went to nearly 40 organizations. Not bad for such a small foundation. 

Trustees target seed money for capital development and look to support projects with long-term goals, particularly those designed to reduce operating costs, according to the Pierce Trust website.

The application process begins with direct telephone or email contact with the program director and then proceeds through a letter of summary to an invitation for grant proposal. Two annual granting deadlines for Pierce Trust funding are March 1 and September 30.

Oh, and don't forget: Grants are awarded locally to projects in the Boston area.