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Abstract

This article encapsulates a more extensive analysis that was commissioned by The Boston Foundation’s board of trustees in December 1998 to investigate its investment practices and identify ways in which its asset management decisions might be brought into fuller alignment with its charitable purpose—without conceding earnings or undermining its philanthropic fiduciary responsibility. The undertaking was spurred by the leadership of Robert A. Glassman, co-founder and co-chair of Wainwright Bank and a trustee of The Boston Foundation (TBF) since 1985, who took the reins from David Rockefeller Jr. in 1995 as chair of TBF’s investment committee. The research project built on several precedents affecting the integration of civic moral values into its investment policy: (1) TBF’s 1985 decision to address the question of South Africa–related holdings; (2) the 1995 passage of a “Harmony Statement” to better align its charitable mission with its investments; and (3) the 1996 decision to divest of tobacco stocks. It also took advantage of the foundation’s conversion, thanks to Glassman’s leadership, from a trust model of governance to a corporate model that afforded the board with greater authority to discharge its fiduciary role. Established in 1915, The Boston Foundation is the nation’s second oldest community foundation. (The first is The Cleveland Foundation, established in 1914.) Appearing here is a summary of the final recommendations constituting a “civic stewardship” policy that was approved by TBF’s board in December 2000, one year after the report’s submission. The nation’s first for a community foundation, this civic stewardship policy represented a major realization of TBF’s covenant to the community, one rooted in five primary values—access, equity, diversity, fairness, and respect—that lie at the heart of TBF’s mission and grant making. The author set about transliterating these core values via the research and analysis into a working policy that emphasizes environmental stewardship, community well-being and citizenship, diversity and equity, and corporate governance. The civic stewardship policy remains in use to this day.

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