June 22, 2018
Surprise! Five Mass. Nonprofits Get up to $2.5M Unexpectedly

May 18, 2017 — Five Massachusetts nonprofits were recently—and more than pleasantly—surprised when they were unexpectedly granted up to $500,000 to enhance existing programs or build capacity.

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, which made the grants, said the nonprofits will receive $50,000 annually for up to 10 years.

The Sustaining Grants program, as it is called, provides additional support to a limited number of multi-year grant winners benefitting from the foundation's $100K for 100 program, whose grants are in their final year, and which "the foundation believes have provided exemplary services to local communities."

Receiving the grants were:
  • CommonWealth Kitchen, Dorchester – To enhance the training programs it provides to early stage food companies in an effort to create jobs, improve healthy food access, and strengthen the regional food economy.

  • Generations Inc., Boston – To support its volunteer recruitment and training efforts so it can serve 200 additional children each year with reading and literacy programming.

  • Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell, Lowell – To expand its Outreach Program over time to every elementary and middle school in Lowell, teaching girls creative pursuits, self-reliance, and critical thinking. –

  • Lawrence CommunityWorks, Lawrence – To improve parent engagement and employment outcomes of Lawrence Public Schools families, with a two-generation approach to community change.

  • UTEC, Lowell – To invest in its social enterprise work crew, which provide job opportunities and education for young people returning from incarceration or leaving gangs.
According to the Woburn Patch, representatives of the winning organizations learned of their grant awards during a May 3 reception at the Strega Prime restaurant in Woburn. The foundation reportedly had invited them under the pretext of offering finalists for the grants one last opportunity to make pitches for their nonprofits. During the gathering, Cummings Foundation founder Bill Cummings made a surprise announcement that all five of the organizations in attendance had already been selected as the winners.

“I was absolutely stunned, and our program director and board president started crying,” said Tracy Reilly-Ingersoll, executive director of Girls Incorporated of Greater Lowell, quoted in the Woburn Patch. "The grant will allow us to take the outreach program and put a rocket under it, so to speak, doubling and then tripling the number of girls we serve."

In addition to rewarding and supporting the work of "especially effective local organizations," Sustaining Grant recipients are removed from consideration in the $100K for 100 program, increasing opportunities for other charities to receive $100K for 10 awards.

The foundation said 10 nonprofits, which focus on education, healthcare, human services, or social justice in Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties, will receive Sustaining Grants in 2018. Grants are decided by a committee; there is no application process.

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