Stoneman Family Foundation: Boston Area Grants

OVERVIEW: Although the Stoneman Foundation once exclusively served education, health, and Jewish causes in Boston, the next generation of Stonemans has expanded to other issues and regions. The foundation does not make itself very accessible to grantseekers, so organizations will have to work through the the family's attorneys or philanthropic advisory group. Stoneman awards around $5 million $7 million in annual grants.

IP TAKE: Since the younger Stonemans feel an obligation to keep Boston organizations on the front burner, education and poverty organizations have a good chance at $10,000 or $20,000. Make sure your program pitches a solution to a problem and doesn't just mask the symptoms.

PROFILE: Few families have articulated and published a formal legacy statement, but the Stoneman Family is one that has. Sidney Stoneman, cofounder of the General Cinema movie chain and honorary director of Harcourt General, established a foundation in 1957 and named it after his parents, Anne and David. For about 30 years, Stoneman ran his foundation quietly with his wife and dished out money to the Boston Orchestra, medical centers, and Jewish causes in Boston, where the couple lived. However, more formality was deemed necessary when the Stonemans tried to make philanthropy a family affair.

The Stoneman Foundation made the history books as an example of how donors can address charitable issues and family issues at the same time. Stoneman's daughters and grandchildren wanted to take the foundation in a different direction by sending funds to grassroots organizations serving poverty-stricken populations in the southern United States. To make everyone happy, Stoneman devised a power-sharing agreement that split the foundation's assets in half between him and his wife and the younger generations.

According to the legacy statement that was approved by the board in 1997, a fair amount of funds must always stay in Boston and with Jewish organizations. After some legally binding documents were passed around and signed, the Stoneman Foundation was solidified as a family affair with guidance but not requirements. As the statement goes, a majority of the board members must be relatives or otherwise the foundation will be liquidated.

If you want to get in touch with the family today, though, you'll have to go through its lawyers first. Grants Management Associates was hired back in 1989 to administer the grantmaking. The foundation remains a family affair, and a very private one at that.

Most Stoneman grants in the past have gone to education, human services, and Jewish causes in the Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C. areas. These grants are usually for general support, program development, and investment loans, and they range from $3,000 to $900,000 a piece, with the average at about $10,000. The foundation usually awards less than 100 grants like these each year, making Stoneman considerably smaller than some of the other big players around Boston.

The current goal of the foundation is an economic justice one: to help low-income people achieve independence and self-sufficiency. At the end of 20a recent year, the foundation reported over $123 million in assets and more than $4.9 million in total giving. Overall giving has remained fairly steady over recent years.

As a general rule, Stoneman likes to address underlying causes rather than treat symptoms with its grants. Pitch a program that uses entrepreneurial approaches to providing leadership opportunities for disadvantaged populations and leverage additional funding. Historically, Stoneman has required an initial 1-2-page letter of inquiry, with full application forms completed later For more information, contact Mott Philanthropic LLC's Julia M. Toulmin at 617-927-5700 or the Office of Goulston & Storrs at 617-482-1776.


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