Where the Boston-based Wagner Foundation’s Giving Has Been Heading Lately

photo:  Free Wind 2014/shutterstock

photo:  Free Wind 2014/shutterstock

When we first started covering Herbert and Charlotte Wagner’s giving through the Wagner Foundation, this was a very locally focused funder that kept grants close to home. The former Baupost Group portfolio manager and founder of Finepoint Capital LP, alongside his wife, established a family foundation bearing their name in 2005, and initially stuck to supporting Boston-based elementary and secondary schools, universities, human services organizations, and hospitals.

But as this foundation has grown, so has its geographical reach and interests. Today, the Wagner Foundation funds many national and international organizations, tackling social justice issues beyond the Boston city limits. 

For example, as we reported earlier this week, the Wagner Foundation recently awarded a $15 million grant to a Boston-based charity called Partners in Health. Although the grantee is local, it has a global reach, working to improve health in 10 countries.

With a grant of this size, you’d be right to assume that this grantmaker and grantee have a long history together. Their partnership dates back to the aftermath of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and the Wagner couple’s international interests have been growing since then. Founder Charlotte Wagner said that this $15 million donation is “an investment in a model that I hope will be replicated elsewhere.”

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However, the Wagner Foundation says that it is still deeply committed to the Boston area despite its expanded mission. This commitment looks a bit different than it did in the past, though, now favoring more coordinated efforts among multiple Boston organizations and occasionally single local organizations that take a holistic approach to improving communities. Some local organizations that fit these ideals and that have received Wagner grants lately include the Boston Cyclists Union, the Boston Book Festival, Summer Search Boston, and the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston.

Over the last few years, the foundation has become more transparent and accessible to grantseekers. The Wagner Foundation was regularly awarding local Boston grants well before it had an official website. But today, the funder has a strong web presence and outlines its mission, approach and funding areas quite specifically. Economic mobility, institutional fairness, health equity, and cultural transformation are the funder’s current focus areas, and while Wagner is currently focused on supporting existing grantees and previously funded programs, it is also now more open to new ideas.

Interested grantseekers from Boston and beyond are welcome to submit ideas and contact information via online form to the foundation staff to be considered for local, national or international program funding.