Wagner Family Foundation: Boston Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The Wagner Family Foundation was established from Herbert S. Wagner III's success as an investment banker with the Baupost Group in Boston. Although the foundation does not accept unsolicited grant applications, it awards much of its grant money to Massachusetts organizations in education, medicine, and human services.

IP TAKE: The Wagner Family Foundation's operations are generally handled by its law firm, with seemingly little family involvement. Elementary and secondary education proposals are your best bet for catching Wagner's attention if your call gets put through.

PROFILE: Herbert S. Wagner III could perhaps write the book on investment banking, and he very well might do so now that he has left his $20 billion firm. Until 2012, Wagner was managing director of the Baupost Group, overseeing billions of dollars of mortgage debt, structured products, and equity investments. Before that, he rose through the ranks at Appaloosa Management L.P., Putnam Investments, and the First National Bank of Chicago (a.k.a. JPMorgan Chase). He's accumulated so much wealth along the way that he called it quits to manage it all.

Wagner and his wife, Charlotte, established the Wagner Family Foundation in 2003 to make their charitable giving official. Most Wagner grants make their way to elementary and secondary school programs, universities, hospitals, and human services organizations. Massachusetts is the focal point of the foundation, so Boston-based organizations will compete only against their neighbors for funding.

Past grants around the city have included $1.75 million ot Partners in Health, $350,000 to Facing History and Ourselves and $275,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Boston. At the end of a recent year, the foundation reported over $97 million in assets and over $4.5 million in total giving. For comparison, the funder claimed $91.7 in assets and more than $3.2 million in total giving the previous year.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, the Wagner Foundation doesn't have a website or appear to accept grant applications. Since Herbert likes to stay local, it's safe to say that he contributes to familiar organizations that have a proven track record of success and a reputation to match. The foundation usually gives out 25 to 50 grants each year totaling $3 to $4 million, with most grants ranging from $2,500 to $2 million. Herbert has been actively involved with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston as a board member as well.

Even though Herbert is "retired," he prefers to not field your phone calls with grant questions. He's hired the law firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish to handle the foundation's operations. He lives in Cambridge with his family, but he has always seemed to have a soft spot in his heart for inner-city Boston kids. To get in touch, try putting in a call to 617-439-2498 or sending an old fashioned letter to P.O. Box 51400, Boston, MA 02205-1400. 


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