Cummings Foundation Inc./One World Boston Inc.: Boston Area Grants

OVERVIEW: One World Boston Inc. is the grantmaking entity of the Cummings Foundation, which will be awarding $20 million in grants to Boston and northern suburban nonprofits this year. Nonprofits serving Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties are given priority for grant awards, which are typically $100,000 each.

FUNDING AREAS: Community development, education, healthcare, homelessness, the elderly

IP TAKE: This is a great foundation to apply for a grant to if your organization benefits the Boston suburban area. Although Cummings supports plenty of Boston-based nonprofits, the northern suburbs are heavily favored as well.

PROFILE: Based in the working class Boston suburb of Woburn, the Cummings Foundation was established by Joyce and Bill Cummings as a private operating foundation in 1986. With over a billion dollars in net assets, it is one of the largest charitable foundations in New England. Cummings Foundation Inc. established a separate grantmaking entity a couple years ago called One World Boston, Inc. This is a local area grant program that provides funding to community groups, underserved populations, healthcare, and education causes.

Cummings gave $38 million in total grants during a past yera to Boston. Cummings’ grantmaking program is called “$100K for 100,” in which the foundation awards $100,000 grants to 100 local charities. The foundation gives $100,00 grants to 100 local nonprofits each year. These grants support human services, education, social justice, and healthcare. 

Joyce and Bill Cummings established the Cummings Properties Foundation (CPFI) as a Massachusetts Trust, changing its name to Cummings Foundation Inc. and becoming an operating foundation in 2002. The couple has donated much of its commercial real estate fortune to the foundation, and the largest grant to date was $50 million to Tufts University veterinary school. “It will be more local, more New England, than the rest of the world,’’ said Bill Cummings. The goal, he told The Boston Globe, is to eventually donate 90 percent of the family fortune to good causes.

Most current Cummings grantmaking revolves around human services, education, healthcare, and social justice. Art, culture, and athletic programs are not considered for grants. And suburban towns like Roxbury, Salem, Medford, Lexington, Newton, Winchester, and Woburn receive just as much attention as the city of Boston.A list of grant recipients can be found here.

To apply for a grant, you’ll need to submit a Letter of Inquiry between July 1 and October 1. The Cummings staff does not typically conduct site visits, but there is always a grantee reception scheduled in Woburn in early June. Keep in mind that you can apply for another grant after three years of receiving one from Cummings.

You can contact the foundation’s Executive Director, Joel B. Swets, at 781-982-7004 or by email at with general questions. Swets has been in this role since 2006, after previously working as a lawyer in taxation, estate planning, and charitable planned giving.


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