Community Foundations

Very early in its life, the Cox Trust identified the development of philanthropy as a giving area that could outlive the Trust and significantly extend its impact. It began to seed-fund new community foundations in New England. This effort, which was replicated many times throughout the region, benefited from opportune timing and skillful execution. The results stand as an impressive piece of the Trust’s legacy.

Seed Funding

The Cox Trust’s initiative for seed-funding community foundations was informed by William B. Hart, Jr., the president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, who identified a need for sister community foundations in Maine and Vermont, and for the establishment of a fund dedicated to New Hampshire’s northernmost region. The establishment of these three community foundations followed a simple formula: The Cox Trust issued a $400,000 challenge grant for endowment, along with a smaller grant to support initial staffing. The challenge grants for endowment were broadly designated, allowing community boards to set the grantmaking agenda.

Measured by dollars alone, the return on this investment has been enormous. The Cox Trust’s initial investment of $2.8 million provided early support to a dozen organizations with combined net assets now exceeding $920 million and an annual grants payout of $74 million.

At their best, community foundations are far more than their grants; they serve as sources of human capital and function as conveners and thought leaders in their states or communities. These foundations have matured to sponsor efforts that include a major public health initiative (the Berkshire Taconic Foundation), AIDS outreach (The Boston Foundation and the Maine Community Foundation), and a Collaboration of Community Foundations for the Gulf of Maine (the New Hampshire Charitable Fund).

By 2000, almost every area of New England had a local community foundation. The Trust’s subsequent grants for the development of philanthropy came largely in the form of membership support for regional associations of grantmakers and affinity groups, with occasional grants for creative new giving vehicles including the New England Grassroots Environmental Funders, the Boston Schoolyards Collaborative, and the innovative 1% for the Planet, a global movement of businesses that have pledged to donate at least 1% of annual revenues to environmental causes.

Legacy of Community Foundations

The success of the three initial grants prompted the Trust to make similar grants elsewhere in the region, leading to the launch of organizations that are now hubs of giving in their areas.

These include:

  • Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation
  • Cape Cod Foundation
  • Community Foundation of Middlesex County (Connecticut)
  • Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts
  • Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts
  • Community Foundation of Tri-County Area (now merged with Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut)
  • Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (special fund for Hampshire and Hampden Counties)
  • Essex County Community Foundation
  • Foundation for Metro West
  • Greater Lowell Community Foundation