NET WORTH: $7.6 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Fidelity Investments
FUNDING AREAS: Health, Arts & Culture, Preservation, Boston Community
OVERVIEW: Johnson’s biggest giving is in arts and culture, and historical preservation in the Boston area, where he is on the board of several health and cultural institutions, and has given away over $425 million since 2000. He is generally relatively quiet about his philanthropy, and gives through several different vehicles, including the Edward Johnson Fund, and the Fidelity Charitable Fund and Foundation.
BACKGROUND: Edward Johnson’s father founded Fidelity Investments, and after graduating from Harvard and spending a few years in the army, Edward joined his father and eventually took over the company, where he served as Chairman and CEO before handing over the reins to his daughter, Abigail. Johnson’s philanthropy remains largely close to home, but he does support charities throughout the country through Fidelity’s charitable arm, which is fairly substantial. Rather than focusing on any particular charitable cause, Fidelity makes grants to organizations to help build their infrastructure. Similar to Johnson’s personal giving, the bulk of the grants go toward health, education, and arts and culture in the U.S.
HEALTH: Through Fidelity’s Charitable Gift Fund, Johnson has made donations that generally range from $1-3 million to a number of Boston area hospitals and medical centers, as well as hospitals and research institutes generally based in New York, California, or the Midwest, and have included the Foundation for Neurological Diseases, the Lupus Research Institute, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and St. Mary’s in Michigan.
ARTS & CULTURE: Johnson founded the Brookfield Arts Foundation in 1999 to purchase art and lend it to museums, or in some cases give it to their permanent collections. The Foundation has more than $166 million in assets, virtually all of which has come from donations from the Johnson family, and the appreciation of Foundation’s art collection. Johnson is also on the board of trustees of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which has received more than $80 million in donations from a variety of charitable vehicles the Johnsons use for their philanthropy, including the Brookfield Arts Foundation, the Edward C. Johnson Fund, and the Fidelity Foundation.
Boston’s Peabody Essex Museum is the other major recipient of gifts from the Johnsons, and has received over $140 million in contributions. Other museums, arts centers, and theatres have received smaller donations, and while the majority of these are in the Boston area through the Edward C. Johnson Fund, the Fidelity Foundation supports organizations in a wider geographic area. Johnson has also been known to provide funding for Zen Gardens and the printing of Buddhist literature.
PRESERVATION: The Johnsons have given smaller donations to numerous historical preservation and conservation societies mainly in the Boston area, though their support extends throughout New England, and in particular to Maine, and Rhode Island.
CONSERVATION: The Johnsons have funded a number of programs focusing on conservation education, particularly for kids. The largest of this type of gift has been to the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, which has received just over $3 million, although grants generally range from around $10,000 to upwards of $150,000.
EDUCATION: The Johnsons have donated to a number of schools through their family fund as well as the Fidelity Foundation. While donations through the family fund tend to have some personal connection, the Fidelity Foundation has a history of supporting a broader range of educational institutions.
BOSTON COMMUNITY: In addition to historical preservation and Boston-area health centers, the Johnsons fund Boston-area schools and libraries, and more traditional community organizations, including Boys and Girls Clubs and little league organizations. “The Johnsons are extremely important both as a major employer and as part of the Boston and Massachusetts brand and they are very philanthropic in what they have done,” said Paul Guzzi, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.
LOOKING FORWARD: Johnson finally stepped down from Fidelity, which might leave him more time for philanthropy. It doesn’t seem likely that he'll expand his philanthropy in other directions too much, but Fidelity offers significant support to a broad range of organizations, and just like the family business, his daughter's input on the direction of the Johnson's philanthropy will likely increase over time.