Cummings Foundation's '$100K for 100' Targets Small North Shore Nonprofits

Nearly all the recipients of $100,000 grants awarded this year by the Cummings Foundation in Woburn, Massachusetts, have been small, local organizations that seldom receive six-figure gifts, the Boston Globe reports.

Last year, the foundation, which has roughly $1 billion in assets, awarded sixty grants of $100,000 each through its "100K for 100" initiative to nonprofits in the Greater Boston area. This year, the foundation is focusing its efforts in communities north of Boston, where the family made its fortune in the commercial real estate business. "There are so many philanthropies that are clustered [in Boston] that the whole north-of-Boston area tends to be left out, hence our interest in Middlesex and Essex counties," foundation president William S. Cummings told the Globe.

In addition to awarding another round of $100,000 grants next year to a hundred nonprofits in Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk counties, the foundation will invite a small number of organizations to apply for $1 million grants. "These organizations might not have the soliciting power that the big, well-established entities have," said the 76-year-old Cummings. "So we're working with organizations where what we do can make a noticeable difference."

By concentrating on smaller nonprofits, the foundation is playing to a regional strength, David Wellbourne, president and CEO of the Essex County Community Foundation, told the Globe. Located in a part of New England that has long valued local control and specialized benevolent enterprises set up to address the needs of neighbors, Essex County is home to some twenty-five hundred nonprofit organizations serving a population of seven hundred and fifty thousand. "Bill and Joyce are reinforcing the decisions that individuals have made here for four hundred years to say, 'We want an organization that does this or does that,'" said Wellbourne. "Our choice here repeatedly has been that we like many different organizations, so we're going to support many different organizations."

How grant recipients plan to use the funds vary as widely as their organizational missions. According to the Globe, the Winchester Seniors Association will use its $100,000 grant to refurbish its 35-year-old facility, while the Stoneham Boys & Girls Club will use its grant to offer afterschool programming in Wakefield. "It would have been difficult" to launch the program without the Cummings Foundation grant," said the organization's executive director, Gerry DeViller. "This grant allows us to use other funds that come in for some of our other programs."

G. Jeffrey MacDonald. "Cummings Foundation Spreads the Wealth." Boston Globe 08/25/2013.