Volunteer Comments

Democratizing Philanthropy

Sustaining Grant winners

Cummings Foundation is fortunate to have the expertise of more than 150 volunteers who dedicate their time, thoughtfulness, and experience throughout the year to various aspects of the grant program. These volunteers review letters of inquiry, grant applications, and impact reports; complete financial reviews; attend Presentation Days; and participate in site visits.

Their diverse backgrounds and knowledge are integral to the Foundation’s ability to better identify the challenges affecting its priority funding area, determine which applicants are poised to have the greatest impact, and enrich partnerships between Cummings and its grant recipients.

Foundation volunteers often report feeling that they receive more than they give in terms of feeling personally enriched by participating in the decision-making process and helping to fulfill Joyce and Bill Cummings’ mission to democratize philanthropy.

Cummings Foundation volunteer meeting
Cummings Foundation volunteers

In Their Words

It was an honor to meet my fellow committee members. Knowing we had the opportunity to change some people’s lives with our choices is a tremendous feeling and an honor.

—Glenn Flannigan, general manager, Waste Innovations

Thank you, Cummings Foundation, for allowing me this unique opportunity to meet so many incredibly dedicated and passionate nonprofit leaders in our community. What a gift it is to be given a voice in how the Foundation’s epic generosity is distributed. Thank you for your commitment to democratizing philanthropy and for supporting our local nonprofits in such a meaningful and impactful way.

—Nancy Powers

I am grateful to be a member of our Suffolk Site Visitors team. We have become more familiar with each other through the visits we do with partners and the meetings we attend, and I like the cohort feel we have developed. I appreciate the role we play on the Cummings landscape, and also everything I am personally gaining and learning along the journey of this important work.

—Merle Berman

During my first meeting at the Foundation, you explained how the volunteer process worked. I remember thinking that in my more than 20 years of involvement with philanthropy and foundations, this is a first. I wasn’t quite sure how it would work…. it didn’t fit any form of process I had been aware of. It didn’t take long to realize how you (Cummings) empower volunteers to get involved with grant making. The volunteers ALL take this responsibility seriously and approach each organization and grant thoughtfully and professionally. And we as volunteers don’t underestimate the role of staff. While there are just a few of you on the professional side, you are always available, encouraging, thoughtful, and positive. I can unequivocally say, being a Cummings volunteer is a privilege, a responsibility, and a gift.

—Susan Solomont, senior advisor, The Philanthropic Institute; author

I have been doing this kind of social service volunteering for close to three decades and this program is a one-of-a-kind volunteer experience. Having the opportunity to step in the shoes of a billionaire philanthropist every year for a couple of weeks is truly unique. The incredible generosity of Bill & Joyce Cummings and Cummings Foundation is not just in the money you give but also in allowing so many people the opportunity to participate in the process and praise associated with the Foundation.

—Bill Strazzullo CFA, CMT, partner & chief market strategist, Bell Curve Trading

This work brings purpose and joy to me every day.

—Arlan (Skip) Fuller, M.D., vice president, Winchester Hospital (retired)

I just wanted to share three things that, to many of us, put Cummings Foundation head and shoulders above the rest:

  • the clear signal directly from Joyce and Bill that the grantee organization is the hero, not the volunteer
  • the goodwill surrounding the entire experience—it's impossible to measure the amount of positive energy created when an organization is treated respectfully by a foundation and its volunteers, generating candor and trust that might take years to (or never!) be built
  • the ripple effects for the community—exposing so many lucky volunteers to the inspiring nonprofits all around us we never knew existed knits the community together so beautifully

Thank you as always from the bottom of my heart!

—Brooke Estridge, head of responsible investing, Liberty Asia

I LOVED reading these reports and learned so much. It's interesting to hear what the grantee organizations are doing. I forwarded so many links to friends and family about volunteer opportunities I thought they may enjoy (and looked into a few fundraisers I would like to attend!).

—Susan Gill, Patrick Gill Trauma Institute

I always welcome the chance to continue as a volunteer for Cummings Foundation. The work you do has never been more important, and the meaningful role performed by volunteers is both satisfying and uplifting. So count me in.

—Jackie O’Neill, marshal, Harvard University (retired)

Cummings Foundation volunteers
Cummings Foundation volunteers

Being a volunteer for Cummings Foundation is the best non-paying job I've ever had. It was key to my fountain of hope during the past 2.5 yrs. Meeting the miracle workers who made about-face moves within days of the pandemic to better serve their communities inspired me to see possibilities and have hope for our community, nation, and my grandchildren's future.

—Joan Hadly, senior vice president, Museum of Science (retired)

I’m thrilled to be a part of Cummings Foundation on both sides of the grant process—it’s a true honor, and I think the way the foundation entrusts the selection process to a diverse group of community members is a model for other foundations to consider, as they try to make their process more equitable. It’s amazing.

—Leah Okimoto, founder, Aaron’s Presents

Thanks for the support and respect that you give to each volunteer.

—Jack Good, vice president, People's United Bank (retired)

I felt so lucky and honored to have been involved in the grant-making process. Simply put, I was blown away by the nonprofits we visited and considered, by my peers on the committee, and by the warmth, grace, and generosity of everyone involved. I was inspired and humbled—and am thrilled to be participating again with this next cycle. So Bill, thanks for sharing your wonderful story and for your extraordinary humility and philanthropy. It is a pleasure to play a role in supporting your and Joyce’s vision.

—Sharyn Bahn, fundraising consultant

Of all of the volunteer organizations with which I’ve had the pleasure of working, the Cummings Foundation is the one I find most rewarding.

—Winston Richie, director of the international group, Manulife Financial (retired)

I feel so privileged to be able to see close up the incredible work of so many small nonprofits in our community — and of course, so privileged to be able to work with the many volunteers.

—Margot Botsford, associate justice, Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (retired)

Cummings Foundation volunteer meeting
Cummings Foundation volunteers with grantees