Herman and Frieda L. Miller Foundation: Boston Grants

OVERVIEW: This foundation is focused on social justice and civic engagement in Greater Boston and Eastern Massachusetts. It accepts proposals by invitation only, but welcomes relevant inquiries from grantees that fit within its guidelines. Most grants are between $20,000 and $50,000.

FUNDING AREAS: Civic engagement, advocacy, community organizing

IP TAKE: Even though Miller grants can touch on issues like employment, housing, healthcare, and education, this is not a place where direct service organizations should look for support. 

PROFILE: With a strict focus on Greater Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, the Herman and Frieda L. Miller Foundation supports philanthropic efforts related to the civic engagement and empowerment of local communities. The foundation was established in Boston in the late 1990s.

Overall, foundation grants support strong civic culture and community empowerment, neighborhood and citywide; development and maintenance of healthy physical settings that facilitate vigorous communities; and access by individuals of all income levels and backgrounds to employment, housing, education, health care, transportation, and cultural activities.

A list of past grants can be viewed here.

Additionally, the Miller Foundation also established the Miller Innovation Fund in 2011. Through this program, the foundation supports short-duration, discrete projects providing social justice organizations with the resources they need to empower the public. Keep in mind that this is not a fund to turn to for your direct service and day-to-day organizational needs.

Unlike many other funding programs, this one does not have a strong preference for a certain type of organization size, form, or issue focus, as long as grantees promote social justice and civic engagement in some way. The fund doesn’t provide start-up funding for new organizations. Most grants fall between $20,000 and $50,000 per year of project support, and multi-year support is often available.

By funding grassroots organizations, community planning groups, and social justice advocates, the Miller Innovation Fund's interests largely fall into these categories:

  • Developing new approaches to supporting community constituents, grassroots leaders and organizations that build capacity to participate in larger social change efforts
  • Testing ideas that support field and movement building efforts
  • Building new alliances between empowerment or advocacy groups
  • Targeted citywide or regional coalition and network building
  • Connecting systematic inquiry, research, and learning to a clear action plan at recipient organizations
  • Incorporating community organizing or empowerment into strong existing direct services

In the past, the foundation reported over $52 million in assets and more than $2.7 million in total giving. Giving has remained pretty steady in recent years.

Starting in 2016, the Miller Innovation Fund has focused on two issue areas: re-imagining service netowrks for vulnerable people (i.e. the homeless, elderly, refugees, domestic violence victims, former prisoners, etc.) and developing and proving new community-based econoic models. In this latter category, the foundation funds projects related to local innovations in banking, newly seeded social enterprises, new asset development schemes, and changed markets for social good. Grants range from $20,000 to $50,000 per year for project support, and funding is limited to groups working in Massachusetts.

Although phone and email inquiries to the foundation staff are welcome, the foundation only accepts proposals by invitation. The Miller Foundation employs the staff of Boston-based Grantmakers Managers Advisors (GMA) Foundations to handle operations. Foundation administrator Amy Shorey can be reached at 617-391-3072 or via email at ashorey@gmafoundations.com.

Ms. Shorey provided the following statement about the foundation:

The Miller Foundation is a focused funder, with a strong portfolio of grantee organizations working in different ways to empower disadvantaged communities, and therefore, their residents. The foundation takes risk, and expects results, though it realizes that the changes it hopes to help grantees make can take many years. Staff and trustees meet personally with grantees, and work to be flexible and nimble in providing needed support.

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