Assets at Boston's Five Largest Family Foundations Exceed $3.5 Billion

The assets of the five largest family foundations in the Boston area more than doubled in value between 2009 and 2013, the Boston Globe reports.

According to tax filings, the Barr, Flatley, Jacobson Family, Yawkey, and Klarman Family foundations saw the value of their endowments increase by hundreds of millions of dollars in 2013, to a total of $3.5 billion. The Barr Foundation, the largest of the five, with more than $1.5 billion in assets, saw the value of its endowment jump 18 percent on a year-over-year basis, even as its grantmaking declined to $52.1 million, down from $58.4 million in 2012. The foundation also designated $6.46 million of its $26.5 million in operating and administrative expenses as "disbursements for charitable purposes," which are counted toward a foundation's mandatory 5 percent payout.

Funded by the real estate fortune of the late Thomas Flatley, the Flatley Foundation ranked second in terms of endowment size, with nearly $561 million in assets and grantmaking of $18.8 million. With $470 million in assets, the fourth-ranked Yawkey Foundation awarded grants totaling $20.2 million in 2013, virtually the same amount it awarded the previous year, even as its assets grew by 8.5 percent, while the third-ranked  Jacobson Family Foundation, with $493 million in assets, increased its grantmaking by 25 percent, to $20.6 million. The fifth-ranked Klarman Family Foundation, whose assets grew by nearly $100 million, to $446.8 million, awarded $55.8 million in grants in 2013, nearly double what it gave in 2012.

Bruce Hopkins, a Kansas City lawyer who specializes in nonprofits, told the Globe that while the practice of applying certain expenses toward the 5 percent payout requirement is perfectly legal, at big foundations with large staffs that can mean less money going directly to the charities those foundations aim to serve. "In that sense," he added, "it reduces what would otherwise go out to charities."