Leadership is Changing at the Lynch Foundation. What Does It Mean for Boston Nonprofits?

One of the most prominent family philanthropies in Boston is going through a leadership transition, which could mean big changes for local nonprofits in the city. As we reported in our profile of the Lynch Foundation, co-founder Carolyn Lynch passed away suddenly last fall at the age of 69, and caused the family to reevaluate its foundation strategy.

As the foundation’s president and chairwoman, Carolyn was deeply involved in the grantmaking process, with everything from issue research to site visits. Carolyn’s husband Peter may have established the foundation with his Fidelity Magellan Fund fortune, but he credited Carolyn with managing the foundation.

“Occasionally, I’d have an idea I’d pass up to the boss,” he joked, “but she did everything. It was simple: She was it.”

Now Carolyn and Peter’s children have stepped up to the plate to take over the family philanthropy and preserve to legacy of their parents. Now, all three of the founders’ daughters are serving as trustees of the foundation for the first time.

Katie Everett, the foundation’s executive director, told The Boston Globe:

I think they thought they had a lot of years ahead of them before they had to think about getting the next generation involved. [As trustees, the Lynch children] will be a next generation of leaders created much within the culture and mindset of their mom: willing to take risks and ask curious questions.

Rather than giving away all their fortune during their lifetimes, Carolyn and Peter Lynch went the route of keeping philanthropy in the family. Fortunately, there are three children and going on eight grandkids who are onboard with taking over. Not every family has that luxury, and not every founder is able to trust successive generations to carry out a very specific mission. The Lynch couple has an estimated net worth of $352 million and is one of the richest families in Massachusetts.

But while some things will change, many others will stay the same. For example, the foundation’s executive director has been in place for 18 years now. In addition to the three daughter trustees, there are currently three staff members and five unpaid trustees who are not members of the Lynch family.

Related: Where Does Lynch Foundation Money Flow in Boston?

The biggest and most enduring causes for the Lynch family have been education and the Catholic faith. During her lifetime, Carolyn wasn’t afraid of taking risks, so that’s something we expect to carry on under the leadership of her daughters. In interviews, her daughters have been open about admiring their mother for her commitment to doing things differently, talking to people in the community, and doing the hard research work involved in grantmaking. They seem to have adopted their mother’s mindset and don’t plan on making any sweeping changes, largely because what Carolyn was doing has been working in Boston.

However, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some new issue areas emerge once the dust settles on this leadership change. The eldest daughter just graduated from Harvard Medical School, and the middle daughter lives in Los Angeles and co-founded a virtual-reality production company. The youngest daughter worked at Fidelity International and is interested in land conservation. At least for now, education, health care, culture, and religion will remain the primary areas of giving at the Lynch Foundation, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see slight shifts in giving over the next year or two.

The Lynch Foundation accepts grant applications all throughout the year on a rolling basis. So this is an ideal time for Boston groups, especially ones that once thought the Lynch Foundation was out of reach, to learn more about this local funder and consider applying for a grant.