Boston, MA

This Boston billionaire is giving away his fortune

Ash Jurberg
Bill CummingsImage supplied by Cummings Industries

I have been writing a series of articles on business leaders and entrepreneurs, examining how they give back to their communities.

Today I want to take a Boston billionaire who is giving his fortune away.

The Boston billionaire

Bill Cummings was raised in Medford, Massachusetts, and graduated from Tuft University in 1958 with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.

In 1970, Cummings started a real estate company, Cummings Properties. The company started with a small building in Woburn and has grown its property portfolio to "include 11 million square feet across 11 suburban-Boston communities."

The business has made Cummings a very wealthy man- and he is determined to give it all away.


As his business grew, Cummings wanted to support the community that made him a success.

In 1986 he established the Cummings Foundation and promised to give 10% of his earnings to the foundation.

"After about 15 very successful years in Greater Boston commercial real estate, we came to recognize and believe that no one can truly 'own' anything. With our ever-so-brief stays upon this earth, how can we possibly think of ourselves as owning land? How can we ever be anything more than caretakers of the ground beneath anything we might develop on any site? With that thought in mind, it was easy thereafter to start giving much more." Bill Cummings

While 10% was generous, Cummings didn't believe it was enough, and "very soon, about 60 percent of the total family assets were donated."

Now, "nearly all of the buildings managed by Cummings Properties are actually owned by and operated for the sole benefit of Cummings Foundation."

In 2011, Bill and his wife Joyce signed the Giving Pledge, in which they promised to give away most of their wealth while they were still alive.

And they have kept true to their word; the Cummings Foundation has awarded more than $375 million in grants to non-profits in Greater Boston.

This week they announced another 140 grants totaling $25 million in support of Boston-area non-profits. Recipients included:

  • The Next Step Fund, which works with at-risk youth living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and rare genetic disorders.
  • About Fresh, which provides weekly mobile markets across low-income Boston communities.
  • Project Hope, which was awarded $500,000 to renovate a family shelter.
  • Arlington Youth Counseling Center— which provides mental health services to youth.
  • Family Aid Boston to improve the immediate and long-term health of more than 800 children facing homelessness.

Those are just five of the 140 organizations to receive support this week from Cummings. Every year, Cummings donates $25 million to non-profit organizations in the Boston area.

We have never particularly liked the expression about ‘giving until it hurts,’ but rather we suggest that the better standard might be—‘Give until it feels good.’” Bill Cummings

Readers, what do you think of the charity work of Bill Cummings? What organizations in Boston would you like to see him support?

Please leave your comments below.

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