Lincoln & Therese Filene Foundation: Grants for New England

OVERVIEW: The Lincoln & Therese Filene Foundation was established by a well-known department store empire with deep roots in Boston and New England, and it provides grants in the Greater Boston region in various civic and cultural areas. 

FUNDING AREAS: Civic education, human development and self-sufficiency, music education and the performing arts, public education and broadcasting

IP TAKE: Community engagement is a big cause for this funder, so try to craft a proposal around promoting engaged and educated Boston citizens, regardless of which program area you apply to.

PROFILE: Established in 1937, the Lincoln & Therese Filene Foundation is the foundation of two innovators in Boston’s early philanthropic scene. Lincoln Filene turned the William Filene’s Sons Company into a large department store with many locations in New England. According to his biography, he also worked for “codes of fair business dealings and aided in bringing about state systems of unemployment insurance, was a founder of the American Arbitration Association, and through the International Chamber of Commerce, of which he was an active member, helped to eliminate a number of unfair business practices abroad and to establish an international arbitration commission.” Lincoln’s wife, Therese, was an advocate for women’s suffrage and involved in philanthropy, especially related to immigrant families in Boston and the local music scene. The couple’s two daughters and their children and grandchildren have remained active with the foundation. Five generations of the family continue on with the founding couple’s grantmaking in four program areas. The foundation’s areas of funding are civic education, human development and self-sufficiency, music education and the performing arts, and public education and broadcasting.

Filene’s civic education involves supporting programs that engage, educate, and encourage citizens about values, responsibilities for natural-born and immigrant populations. The human development and self-sufficiency program funds organizations in the areas of domestic violence, homelessness, job training and youth. Meanwhile, Filene funds music education and performing arts grants mostly to ongoing programs at Wolf Trap Farm for the Performing Arts, the Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts and the Opera Company, and the Filene Music Program at Skidmore College. Other arts requests are considered on a limited basis. Finally, the foundation funds public education and broadcasting grants to organizations that promote equal access, encourage civic engagement, and address local community needs. Programs in public school systems are also prioritized here.

Grants are generally between $10,000 and $20,000. Across all program areas, the foundation focuses grantmaking on the Greater Boston area, but also throughout New England. To be eligible to apply for a grant, your organization must be in Massachusetts or have received a special invitation to apply if in another state. This is typically a funder of program support, not general operating support or capital campaign support.

This foundation accepts unsolicited grant requests from nonprofits. The foundation’s board meets in May and November to review grant applications, which are to be submitted online by March 1 and September 1. Direct general questions to the Boston office at 617-439-2498 or via email at The best point of contact is Alane Wallis, who is a manager for charitable foundations at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP in Boston.


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