Edward C. Johnson Fund: Grants for Conservation

OVERVIEW: The Edward C. Johnson Fund is a foundation of the wealthy family behind Fidelity Investments. As of now, it tends to do 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 player on conservation issues. But with a clear interest in this area and one of America's largest fortunes, this is a funder to watch closely. 

PROFILE: The Edward C. Johnson Fund is helmed by patriarch Edward C. Johnson III and his kids. Johnson took over from his father, Edward C. Johnson II at Fidelity Investments, which now holds trillions in assets. Johnson has ceded much of the day-to-day operations of his company to his eldest daughter, Abigail, who's likely to take over in her father's footsteps at Fidelity. 

The Johnson fund held more than $333 million in assets at the end of 2012 and gave away around $50 million that year. That's serious money, and it's going mainly to arts and culture, historic preservation, health and environmental conservation. Arts appears to be the biggest beneficiary, but environmental conservation is clearly important to the family.

Over the years, the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute has received around $3 million. The institute, which opened its doors in 1997, is the site of educational exhibits and programming. It is also into marine conservation. The Johnsons have several ties to Bermuda. Johnson himself has homes both in the United States and Bermuda. What's more, Fidelity Worldwide Investment has a Bermuda location. 

Another international outfit receiving funds is National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty. The conservation outfit works in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and received more than $230,000 in 2012. Similar to Bermuda, Fidelity has three main offices in the U.K.

Back stateside, the Johnsons have given to 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. These sums have generally been more modest, under $100,000 annually.

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 Boston Harbor Alliance, according to its website. 

While none of these outfits appear to have seen recent support through the Johnson fund, other conservation outfits supporting Boston's waterways and coasts have. The Esplanade Association recently received a modest gift of under $10,000 to help restore and enhance Boston's historic Charles River Esplanade. Emerald Necklace Conservancy received similar funds to help protect the Emerald Necklace Park System.

Apart from environmental conservation, the family is also into historic preservation. Recent funds have gone to Maine Historical Society, Historic New England ($1.3 million in 2011), New Hampshire Historical Society and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. 


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