"Good works and an insider culture, the twin legacies of Yawkey charity" by Bob Hohler Globe Staff February 12, 2017
Life has improved for thousands of the region’s sick, poor, and disenfranchised since proceeds from the 2002 sale of the Red Sox enriched a charitable foundation created by the team’s late owner, Jean R. Yawkey, by $375 million.
In the 15 years since that windfall, the charity, known as the Yawkey Foundation II, has paid or pledged more than $350 million in charitable grants, improving conditions not only for the homeless and hungry but uplifting Boston’s lifeblood medical, cultural, and educational institutions. The nonprofit has meanwhile amassed $420 million in assets, ensuring that generations will benefit from its giving.
But the Yawkey foundation has cast a shadow on some of its good work by fostering an insider culture in which trustees have funded one another’s special interests, taken sizable fees, and engaged in practices that then-state attorney general Tom Reilly tried to prevent when proceeds from the sale spawned the largest charitable fund in New England sports philanthropy.
Reilly, concerned that the foundation, formed in 1982, was managed as what he described as a “closed little club,’’ negotiated a governance agreement in 2002 that required the charity’s leaders to abide by best practices for private nonprofits.
However, in 2005, Reilly granted the foundation’s request to terminate the agreement, and the Yawkey trustees have since acted in a number of ways contrary to the rules and spirit of the now-defunct document as well as philanthropy’s highest standards, according to nonprofit watchdogs.
The foundation has abolished an antinepotism rule and another provision that set term limits for the board’s chairman. It has also steeply increased the personal compensation paid to its trustees and management executives. Some have taken home millions of dollars since the Sox sale....
It's an insider culture, and Pablo Eisenberg, a founder of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, said the transactions “don’t pass the smell test.’’
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