$20 Million Up for Grabs for Boston Area Nonprofits: What to Know About the Cummings Foundation

There are quite a few big name foundations based in Boston, but one that shouldn't be overlooked is the Cummings Foundation. Why, you ask? This Woburn, Massachusetts-based philanthropy announced that it will award $20 million in local grants this year to organizations based in and serving Boston and its northern suburbs.

Through the its “$100K for 100” grants program, the Cummings Foundation awarded over $16 million to Boston and Boston suburban nonprofits in 2012 and 2013 combined. Some of these were single-year grants and others were multi-year grants. This year, the foundation is stepping it up and committing $20 million. Each of these grants will be at least $100,000 in size, and ten larger local charities will average $1 million each. The $100,000 grants will be awarded in late May, and the $1 million grants will kick off October 1st.

Local grants were recently made to the American Islamic Congress in Boston, A Better Chance in Winchester, Bridge Over Troubled Waters in Boston, and Minuteman Senior Services in Bedford. The foundation's largest grant to date, $50 million, went to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Although this particular grantmaking program has a local focus, the founders, Joyce and Bill Cummings, also have a soft spot in their hearts for the people of Rwanda. The Cummings spent part of last summer in Rwanda and helped create the country's first outpatient cancer infusion center near Butaro.

Unfortunately, if this is the first you're hearing about the Cummings Foundation's local program, you've already missed your chance for 2014. The final applications were due on March 7th. But it's never to early to start preparing for the 2015 grant cycle. The foundation plans to begin accepting letters of inquiry in September.

These are the Cummings' local program priority areas, which are specifically targeted at underserved populations in the Boston area:

  • Healthcare
  • Social Justice
  • Education

And that's it, so don't bother sending your arts & culture, scholarship, medical research, religious, or environment proposal to this foundation. Cummings prefers to see proposals from established organizations rather than relatively new entities or initiatives. However, they also shy away from the very large organizations that are already receiving plenty of support elsewhere. And unfortunately, only the $100,000 grants are up for unsolicited proposals, since the $1 million grants are made by invitation only.

Keep an eye on the Cummings Foundation's One World Boston page for updates about the 2015 grant cycle deadlines or contact Executive Director, Joel B. Swets, with questions at jbs@cummings.com or 781-932-7004.