The Power List: The 25 Most Influential People in Boston Philanthropy

They came. They gave. They conquered.

Nonprofits and the philanthropists behind them do an enormous amount of important work in Boston. They feed the hungry, educate children, take care of the sick, and sponsor a thriving arts and culture community. But at the upper echelons of the city, philanthropy is about something else, too. It’s about writing $10 million checks, leading $1 billion capital campaigns, getting your name stamped on college buildings, and fighting for coveted seats on prestigious boards. In other words, it’s about power—the money, influence, and ideas that make things happen. And no one in town has more of it than the leaders listed here, the 25 most powerful people in Boston philanthropy.

* Memberships listed are an edited—not all-inclusive—inventory, and denote a role on an institution’s board of directors, trustees, officers, or other advisory council. Membership information was collected from individuals and Guidestar.


Amos & Barbara Hostetter


Board Memberships: Barr Foundation, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, WGBH, Museum of Fine Arts, Amherst College, North Bennet Street School, Belmont Hill School

Recent Activity: Pledged $50 million to local climate-change prevention efforts in 2010

There are foundations based in Boston, and then there’s the Barr Foundation. The Barr is the biggest source of nonprofit funding in the region: In 2011, for example, the organization donated $54 million to 360 nonprofits, including $3 million to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—part of Barbara Hostetter’s ongoing support of the museum (she played a key role in the capital campaign for the new Renzo Piano wing). And in 2010, the couple pledged $50 million to fighting climate change. With assets of more than $1.1 billion, the Barr seems poised to continue to give generously. Beyond merely writing checks, though, the Hostetters are influencing future generations of philanthropists with the Barr Fellowship program, which provides training and a three-month sabbatical for rising stars in the world of charity—including leaders such as John Barros, number 13 on our list.


Jack Connors (Photos by Scott M. Lacey)


Jack Connors

All-Purpose Power Broker

Board Memberships: Connors Family Foundation, Boston College, Camp Harbor View, Harvard School of Public Health, Partners in Health

Recent Activity: Led the $62 million drive for the Campaign for Catholic Schools in 2012

How influential is Connors? Last year, when he stepped down from the boards of Mass General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s, and partners HealthCare, President Obama put together a thank-you video for his retirement gala. At Boston College, the Hill Holliday founder has sat on the board of trustees since 1979 and (twice) been chairman, and he funded the Connors Family Retreat and Conference Center. And after a falling-out with the Archdiocese of Boston related to the sex abuse scandal, he returned to help lead the $62 million Campaign for Catholic Schools. At Brigham and Women’s, meanwhile, he was a driving force behind the Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology. Then there’s the $45 million he’s raised for Mayor Menino’s pet project, the Camp Harbor View summer camp for at-risk Boston kids. In other words, Jack Connors is, as one of the city’s most prominent businessmen told us, “the beacon of philanthropy for the city of Boston.”


Ned Johnson and Abigail Johnson

Father-Daughter Dynasty, Fidelity Investments

Board Memberships: Edward C. Johnson Fund, Fidelity Foundation, Alzheimer Research Forum

Recent Activity: Donated $29 million to charities in 2011

It’s true that some nonprofit leaders are worrying that the Johnsons have turned their eyes away from Boston, as both the Fidelity Foundation and the Edward C. Johnson Fund were moved to New Hampshire in 2010. Still, the influence of the father-daughter team in the city remains profound, as they donated $29 million to charities in 2011. As one important philanthropist says, “People don’t realize the footprint and impact that the Johnson family has, and continues to have, on our community.”


Peter & Carolyn Lynch


Board Memberships: Lynch Foundation, Boston College, Catholic Schools Foundation, Harvard Medical School Board of Fellows, New England Conservatory, Peabody Essex Museum

Recent Activity: Gave $20 million to Boston College in 2010

After earning a fortune managing Fidelity’s Magellan Fund, Peter Lynch retired in 1990, at 46, to dedicate his time and considerable resources to philanthropy. He and his wife, Carolyn, were one of the first funders of Teach for America (back in 1990), and have raised and donated millions to the local Campaign for Catholic Schools. They’ve also directed $30 million to Boston College for education causes, including a leadership academy that trains principals. Where’s it held? At BC’s Lynch School of Education.


Paul Grogan

President and CEO, the Boston Foundation

Board Memberships: Brandeis University, New Profit, CEOs for Cities

Recent Activity: Directed $88 million to area nonprofits in 2012

Having transformed the Boston Foundation into a veritable think tank, Grogan serves as the city’s moral conscience, driving the conversation on charter schools, gangs, and, more generally, how to improve life for city residents. But the Boston Foundation puts plenty of brawn behind its brains, handing out $88 million in grant money in 2012. One fundraising consultant told us that “Grogan has demonstrated the way a community foundation, given assets and connections, can really change the agenda.”