Yawkey Foundations: Boston Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The Yawkey Foundation is a longtime Boston funder, typically providing more than $20 million in annual funding to area nonprofits. The majority of its grantmaking is around health, education, and youth programs, although Yawkey supports a wide range of causes. Of note, the foundation only works with organizations it has funded in the past.

IP TAKE: Even though a majority of Yawkey's grants go to health-care organizations, about $1 million goes to conservation and wildlife causes each year. Since this program area is often overlooked by Boston foundations, keep Yawkey in mind if you're an environmentalist.

PROFILE: If you live in Boston, there's a good chance you've heard the name Yawkey, especially if you root for the Red Sox. For outsiders, the Yawkey family was the longtime owner of the franchise. But the storied franchise is just a small part of the Yawkeys' legacy. In 2002, the Red Sox was sold, giving the Yawkey Foundation a $380 million cash infusion. Although Tom and Jean Yawkey have died, they left behind a fortune to go toward philanthropy, primarily in the Greater Boston area. 

Yawkye Foundation I is focused on Georgetown County, South Carolina, so we'll be focusing on Yawkey Foundation II here in this Boston profile.

The Yawkey Foundation II now holds assets of roughly $458 million and contributes around $21 million to local nonprofits and organizations. The majority of funding "emulates the Yawkeys' tradition of giving," focusing on education, health care, human services, youth and amateur athletics, arts and culture, and conservation and wildlife.

The remaining grant funds are awarded to the arts and culture (8%) and conservation and wildlife (4%) programs. Although those percentages don't seem like much, they still add up to about $2 million a year in grants for arts and culture and $1 million for conservation and wildlife. 

Between 1977 and 2015, Yawkey Foundation I and II awarded around 4,400 grants totaling $418 million.

Here's a quick breakdown of the foundation's funding over its history during that period:

  • 25% of grants to health care
  • 24% to education programs
  • 18% to human services
  • 17% to youth and amateur athletics
  • 8% to arts & culture 
  • 8% to conservation and wildlife 

Unfortunately, Yawkey has a few barriers when it comes to getting funding. Currently, the foundation only accepts grant applications from organizations it has worked with in the past. For most qualifying organizations, grant funding is available up to $25,000.

Although Yawkey asks that grantseekers limit their request for funding to $25,000, a look at the foundation's long list of recent grantmaking seems to show this limit is not a hard-and-fast rule. It's true, about 60% of all Yawkey grants made annually come in at $25,000. But the remaining 40% range from $30,000 to $525,000, with a handful, such as those mentioned above, coming in at more than $1 million.

Check the grant guidelines page and the news page for current updates on the grantmaking process. Current application deadlines can be found here. Questions from grantseekers can be directed to Nancy Brodnicki, Yawkey Foundations' programs administrator, at (781) 329-7470.

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