Kristen Whelan, Yawkey Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer


CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Yawkey depends upon third-party adviser Whelan to decide where the foundation's education money goes—so go straight to the source by contacting her directly.

PROFILE: Outsourcing isn't just for telecommunications and customer service companies looking to save a buck anymore. Many major philanthropic foundations are now outsourcing their senior program officer positions to third-party advisory teams. Boston baseball legacy the Yawkey Foundation relies upon the services of an advisory team known as The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) to evaluate grant applications and decide which worthy non-profit organizations to support. More specifically, Yawkey depends upon Senior Program Officer Kristen Whelan to dole out the foundation's education money.

The Yawkey Foundation focuses its giving on non-profit organizations based in areas where the famous family has roots: New England, Georgetown County, and South Carolina. Yawkey's focus areas have always centered on education, health care, human services, youth athletics, arts and culture, and environmental conservation. Although the board of trustees has authorized funding for nearly $300 million in grants, much of the decision making is left up to outside advisers who specialize in helping foundations and individuals invest in their communities and values to maximize social impact. Since the passing of power couple Thomas and Jean Yawkey, the foundation has clearly needed a little guidance and direction.

TPI has been around since 1989, and Senior Program Officer Whelan has been with TPI since 1998. With a long-proven track record, Whelan was an obvious choice for helping Yawkey out with its education giving. Whelan graduated from Bennington College with a bachelor's degree in political science and psychology and went on to earn her master's in urban and environmental policy at Tufts University. Before joining TPI, she worked as an office manager for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Oxfam America.

Perhaps Whelan's most significant role at the Yawkey Foundation is running its Scholarship Program. This program, which aims to make college affordable for low-income, talented, and motivated Massachusetts students, grants funds for four-year renewable tuition. Under Whelan's guidance, the program has given over $6 million to more than 150 students.

Education grants make up about a quarter of Yawkey's annual giving budget. In addition to its scholarship program, the foundation has recently made significant contributions to high schools for gym equipment, resource centers for literacy programs, and support organizations for after-school programs.

Yawkey's grant guidelines page reveals that the deadline for education proposals is September 1, so your best bet to get in on some Yawkey funds as a newbie is to go directly to the source: Whelan. Contact her with any questions about the Yawkey Scholars Program or other education grants that may be available. Make sure that your request for funds is $25,000 or less, because large funding requests, especially from first-time applicants, tend to get Yawkey’s cold shoulder.