Cummings Foundation awards $20 million in grants to nonprofits
By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Region – For over 50 years, Cummings Properties has been a leader in commercial real estate throughout Massachusetts. And although its founder, Bill Cummings, is a successful CEO who has earned recognition and accolades for his business acumen in the field, it may be another endeavor – Cummings Foundation – that has truly made a more significant impact on the lives of so many.
A desire to give back
Almost 40 years ago, Cummings and his wife, Joyce, started the foundation as a way to give back to nonprofit organizations that represent the areas of social justice, human services, education and health care.
The organizations are located in three counties – Middlesex, Suffolk and Essex – where Cummings Properties manages commercial buildings. The majority of those buildings are owned by Cummings Foundation, and are managed, at no cost to the foundation, by Cummings Properties. One of those properties is the Marlborough-based New Horizons assisted living and retirement community.
Remarkably, since its inception, the foundation has donated an astounding $280 million in grants, including a $50 million commitment to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in North Grafton in 2005.
Annual $20 Million Grant Program
The foundation recently announced the 130 grant recipients of its $20 Million Grant Program. Each organization will receive a grant of a minimum of $100,000, while 30 nonprofits that are previous Cummings grant recipients will have their awards elevated to 10-year grants valued between $200,000 and $500,000 each.
One local recipient this year is the United Way of Tri County, which is based in Framingham and serves that city as well as Hudson and Marlborough. It will use its grant of $100,000 to increase food security for low-income residents of Marlborough by providing monthly groceries, weekly fresh produce, grocery deliveries, and SNAP registration through its food pantry programs.
“We are thrilled to receive a Cummings grant which will help us increase capacity to serve Marlborough residents over the next four years,” said Paul Mina, UWTC’s president and CEO. “This funding comes at a time when need is growing and this generous support will position us well to meet increasing demand.”
Marlborough-based Employment Options Inc. also received a $100,000 grant, which they will use to further expand its Catering Options social enterprise to offer additional culinary training and employment placement to individuals with disabilities.
In a year where COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on many nonprofits, forcing them to change their methods of operations and in many cases cancel major fundraisers, the foundation offered flexibility as to how organizations will use their grants, said Dennis Clarke, trustee of Cummings Foundation and chair and CEO of Cummings Properties.
“We know that these are unusual times and many organizations have expanded needs,” he said, “so we are also accelerating the timing of this year’s payment as well.”
Separate from the Cummings $20 Million Grant Program, the foundation has also contributed $500,000 to the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Previous local grant recipients have included Fresh Start Furniture Bank in Hudson, Friends of the Marlborough Seniors, Metro Community Development, Boys & Girls Clubs of MetroWest and Thrive Support & Advocacy Inc.
Normally the foundation hosts a major celebration for its grant winners each summer. This year, of course, those plans have had to be changed, and will instead be held via a Zoom call.
“Of course we are disappointed,” Clarke said, “but it will still be fun. Meeting the leaders of these great organizations and how they are helping so many, that is the best part for us.”
A legacy of societal leadership
Joyce and Bill Cummings have quietly contributed to the local community for many years, doing so, Clarke said, in a very humble and low-key way. But in May 2011, they decided to join the Giving Pledge, an organization founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet through which some of the world’s wealthiest individuals and couples have publicly pledged to donate at least half of their assets for philanthropic purposes. As such, the Cummings have already donated 90 percent of their wealth.
While most donations are to Massachusetts organizations, they have also helped to fund initiatives in Rwanda.
“They never chose to be in the spotlight,” Clarke said. “But they believe in setting a good example of societal leadership.”
Bill Cummings has just released a new book, “Starting Small and Making It Big,” which is now available at cummings.com/book and Amazon.com.
For more information, visit www.cummingsfoundation.org.