Edward C. Johnson Fund: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The Edward C. Johnson Fund tends to conduct its conservation giving regionally, so outfits in the Boston and the greater New England area receive the majority of its grants.  

IP TAKE: The Johnson family is a modest local funder of conservation issues, but lacks transparency and a website making grant priorities and strategies unclear.

PROFILE: The Edward C. Johnson Fund, separate from the Fidelity Foundation, is helmed by patriarch Edward C. Johnson III and his children. Johnson took over from his father, Edward C. Johnson II at Fidelity Investments, which now holds trillions in assets. According to tax filings, grantmaking invests in arts and culture, historic preservation, health and environmental conservation.

While the foundation prioritizes arts giving, it also supports environmental conservation. Since the foundation does not maintain a website, it’s unclear what kinds of strategies it implements in its conservation grantmaking. However, the Johnson family also has several ties to Bermuda, where they live part of the year and where Fidelity WorldWide Investment maintains an office. Given this tie to Bermuda, the foundation has generously supported the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute with $3 million. The institute, which opened its doors in 1997, is the site of educational exhibits, programming, and marine conservation. However, the foundation also appears to fund conservation work related to landscape preservation.

Grants range from about $10,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Past grantees include the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, Friends of the Public Garden in Boston, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Vermont Land Trust, Stowe Land Trust, and the Earthwatch Institute, among others.

It's worth noting that Johnson's son, Edward Johnson IV, lives on Boston's Union Wharf and is president of family-owned Pembroke Real Estate, which manages 6.5 million square feet of office and residential real estate, including the Boston Seaport. Pembroke is affiliated with the Urban Land Institute, Greenway Conservancy, and the Esplanade Association, which received a modest grant to help restore and enhance Boston's historic Charles River Esplanade.

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