How This Travel Company Exec Approaches Youth Giving in Boston

Alan and Harriet Lewis are definitely a couple to get familiar with if you work with youth in the Boston area. And despite their company’s focus on global travel, their philanthropy remains incredibly local.

Alan Lewis’ company is the Grand Circle Corporation, which owns the subsidiary, Grand Circle Travel. This travel company was launched in 1958 to serve AARP members, and it focuses on international travel for older Americans still today. Other components of the corporation include the Grand Circle Cruise Line, Overseas Adventure Travel, and the Grand Circle Foundation.

Founded in 1982, the Grand Circle Foundation has given over $50 million to educational, humanitarian, and cultural organizations around the world. But today we’re focusing on the family's more personal giving a little closer to home.

They also lead the Lewis Family Foundation, which is all about empowering local youth to build strong communities. The biggest part of Lewis’ giving in Boston centers on increasing the graduation rates in tough neighborhoods. More specifically, the CollegeWorks initiative was launched to double the four-year college graduation rate for young people from Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan by the year 2020. This initiative features community service projects, a leadership program for rising college freshmen, and grants to nonprofits. In 2016, this initiative has impacted at least 7,78 young people in these areas.

Bigger Than My Block is another youth-focused Lewis initiative about community engagement. And the Lewis Center will be the base for the funder’s leadership development programs for youths 14-22 and nonprofit organizations.

CollegeWorks is an initiative that you can apply to, and the application form is available online. Lewis grants typically range from $1,000 to $10,000 and extend for one year. In addition to college readiness, Lewis also supports projects that improve and promote global citizenship with young people in Boston’s Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan neighborhoods. Applications are typically due in March and October. The next deadline coming up is October 21 for both college readiness and global citizenship grants.

But what’s interesting about these “Associate Fund Grants” is that they’re actually connected to the Grand Circle Foundation, which is the global grantmaking arm at work here. There’s some overlap between these two funding entities, which can be confusing for grantseekers.

In Boston, past Lewis funding has gone to BottomLine, uAspire, West End House, and Year Up. The Lewis family is also a big supporter of charter schools and has awarded grants to the Boston Collegiate Charter School and City on a Hill Charter School, for example.

Boston nonprofits really only share Lewis’ attention with Kensington, New Hampshire, which is another Lewis Family hometown. This past spring, the Lewis Family Conservation Foundation donated $150,000 to support the preservation of the largest working farm in Kensington. On occasion, some grants are awarded in global villages where the Grand Circle Corporation travels.

Again, this is where the overlap comes into play. But two foundations considering Boston groups are better than one, right?

So in conclusion, the takeaway here for Boston groups is that these two connected funders are open to unsolicited inquiries about college readiness/access/completion, as well as global citizenship. Learn more Lewis’ leadership here. Combined, the two foundation entities have pledged or donated more than $97 million in support of 300 projects, including 100 schools in 60 villages in more than 50 countries throughout the world.