Established by siblings Warren and Doris Buffett, the Letters Foundation read and replied to letters from individuals and families living within the United States and directed one-time grants to people experiencing hardship when no other options were available. Doris' lifelong commitment to individuals, and her kind and practical approach to problem solving, informed all areas of grant-making.
After four years of operating in Boston, Letters Foundation permanently sunset on December 31, 2020, and will no longer be accepting new letter requests.
Después de cuatro años de operaciones en Boston, Letters Foundation se cerrará permanentemente el 31 de diciembre de 2020 y ya no aceptará nuevas solicitudes de cartas.
Watch the video below to learn from former staff and volunteers about how our grant application process worked, from when a letter was received until when a grant was issued, and what other steps took place along the way.
Letters Foundation worked with many volunteers on a weekly basis who were integral to our success. Volunteers donated precious time and invaluable skills as Operations Volunteers, Letter Readers, Application Specialists, and Researchers to help make our grantmaking possible. Volunteers collectively donated 5,000 hours annually to ensure that we met our mandate of Every Letter Read.
Watch the video below to hear from former volunteers, as well as former staff, about the best and most challenging parts of working with Letters Foundation and collaborating with constituents.
Our Community Partners
In 2017, as an effort to expand our grantmaking and diversify our grantee base, Letters Foundation initiated the Community Partners Program with 20 nonprofits across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Referral partnerships provided grants to individuals and families connected to Community Partner services. The Community Partners Program informed the Foundation’s grantmaking through a deeper understanding of the needs and strengths of constituents, as well as the vibrancy of the nonprofit community. During the program’s lifespan, our staff and volunteers read and responded to over 300 Community Partner letters and deployed $2.7M to constituents, including institutional grants to all participating nonprofit partners.
Aaron’s Presents was founded in 2014 by Leah Okimoto in memory of her infant son, Aaron. Aaron’s Presents gives young children (through 8th grade) a unique opportunity to practice compassion, generosity and practical life skills through real-life experiences in the larger community that they themselves have envisioned and planned. To date, they have mentored over 1,000 kids ages 7-14 in the Merrimack Valley and North Shore in Massachusetts, with a focus on the low-income communities of Lowell, Lawrence and more recently, Lynn. The kids have created and led over 500 projects benefiting over 30,000 people and animals in these regions. Aaron’s Presents provides individualized mentoring, supplies, and logistical support as needed, so that the program is accessible to any child, regardless of resources, skill level or available adult support.
ATASK is a nonprofit, community organization serving Pan-Asian survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence. They provide services in Greater Boston and Greater Lowell, offer limited assistance in other cities throughout Massachusetts and New England, and currently provide services in 18 Asian languages and dialects. ATASK’s mission is to prevent domestic and intimate partner violence in Asian families and communities and to provide hope to survivors. ATASK embraces and represents all ages, cultures, abilities, gender identities and sexual orientation.
The mission of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) is to end sexual violence through healing and social change. BARCC provides free, confidential support, and services to survivors of sexual violence ages 12 and up and their families and friends. It works with survivors of all genders from the immediate crisis after sexual violence to years and decades later, and its goal is to empower survivors to heal. BARCC also works with a wide range of organizations and communities, including schools, colleges, and police, to advocate for change, and provides training in how to respond to survivors and create cultures that prevent sexual violence in the first place.
Boston Medical Center’s Domestic Violence Program is a resource for patients, employees, community members, and anyone (teens and adults including elders) who is seeking information or help with domestic violence, particularly abuse or violence by a current or former partner. Services are free, voluntary, and confidential, and are available in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. For additional languages, the Program utilizes trained BMC Interpreters. The Program also offers training and expert consultation on many aspects of domestic/intimate partner abuse.
Compass Working Capital provides savings and financial coaching programs that support families with low incomes to build assets, reach their financial goals, and become more financially secure. Compass’ work is grounded in an understanding of the role that assets and financial capabilities play in enabling families to access greater economic opportunity, and move up and out of poverty. Since 2010, Compass has focused its efforts on expanding the scope and impact of an existing federal housing program called the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. Compass currently partners with local housing providers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island to operate its FSS program model, and supports other mission-aligned organizations across the country to implement core aspects of the model in their communities.
Children With Voices, A Service of Riverside Community Care
The Children With Voices program facilitates services for children who have witnessed domestic violence and their non-offending parent. Their goal is to improve the safety for these children and their families by providing parenting education, stress management skills, and mental healthcare. The program provides a wide range of services which are customized to each family’s needs and include evaluations, treatment planning, individual, family, and group therapy.
Economic Mobility Pathways is a Boston-based nonprofit that combats poverty in three ways: Direct Services in Greater Boston; Research & Policy; and its Economic Mobility Exchange™. The latest science tells us that the stress of poverty can be a major roadblock to economic mobility. Using this insight, EMPath developed a one-on-one coaching approach that focuses on one’s long-term goals. EMPath families achieve remarkable success; so it launched The Exchange to share its model and improve outcomes nationwide.
Family Independence Initiative (FII) trusts and invests directly in low-income families so they can work individually and collectively to achieve prosperity. FII does this by providing the technology platform to strengthen social networks, access cash investment, and support one another in achieving mobility. Ultimately, FII is changing the narrative about low-income families in our country.
The Gavin Foundation is a nonprofit agency providing comprehensive adult, youth and community substance abuse education, prevention and treatment programs. Established in South Boston in 1963, Gavin now serves over 5,000 individuals each year from Massachusetts and beyond. The Gavin Foundation offers a continuum of care to individuals, support services to their families, and programs to increase community awareness and acceptance regarding addiction and recovery.
Hospitality House aims to break cycles of poverty and homelessness in Mid-coast Maine. They strive to create a supportive community within which all families and individuals have the opportunity for housing and a sustaining a productive life.
The mission of Horizons for Homeless Children is to improve the lives of young homeless children in Massachusetts and help their families succeed by providing high-quality early education, opportunities for play, and comprehensive family support services. The believe every homeless child will have the opportunity to learn, play, and thrive.
Jeremiah Program offers one of the nation’s most successful strategies for transforming families from poverty to prosperity two generations at a time. Jeremiah prepares determined single mothers to excel in the workforce, readies their children to succeed in school, and reduces generational dependence on public assistance. Jeremiah’s proven, holistic approach begins with establishing a supportive community for determined single mothers to pursue a career-track, college education. Through a combination of quality early childhood education, support to find a safe and affordable place to live, and empowerment and life skills training, families find stability and a path out of poverty.
Goodman Jewish Family Services (JFS) touches hundreds of lives each day as an active resource of healing, protecting, educating, empowering, sheltering and feeding members of the Broward County community. JFS assists those who suffer quietly – seniors in need, Holocaust survivors, parents of disabled adults, survivors of domestic abuse, people who fall through the cracks in the system, and those who don’t qualify for traditional resources or know how to avail themselves of community resources. Since 1962, JFS has worked tirelessly by identifying needs, raising funds, providing counseling, offering emotional, physical or financial assistance and connecting those in need with those willing to help.
JRI Health’s primary mission is to partner with individuals and communities to achieve the health and justice we all deserve. JRI Health offers a continuum of services to mitigate the social and health determinants, and address the well-being of underserved individuals and communities living with and at risk for HIV and HCV. Services incorporate state-of-the-art best practices and standards of care to ensure culturally competent psychosocial supports, effective case management, and housing, legal, and treatment resources, particularly for immigrants, MSM, communities of color, and individuals struggling with treatment adherence. JRI Health has also worked to positively impact the service-delivery system, providing skills training to medical and social service providers on community health issues.
Boston Children’s at Martha Eliot provides primary and preventive care for children, adolescents and young adults, including well child appointments and sick visits. For more than 50 years, Boston Children’s Hospital has operated this site located in the vibrant Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. From its early beginnings in the Bromley-Heath housing development up until today, Boston Children’s at Martha Eliot has provided health care an improved the health of countless children and young adults.
The Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services supports substance use disorder and addiction recovery strategies in the City of Boston. The Office of Recovery Services (ORS) works to give more people access to the support they need, and builds key partnerships with City, State, and community partners. ORS is the first municipal recovery office in the United States.
My Life My Choice focuses on strengthening the power and amplifying the voices of those who have survived exploitation. My Life My Choice works to build a network of allies to stand up to the force of the illegal sex industry, and create long-lasting social change through survivor empowerment, prevention, community trainings, and advocacy.
One Family aims to prevent homelessness and break the cycle of family poverty in Massachusetts by promoting pathways to economic independence through advocacy, education, and innovation. One Family envisions a Commonwealth where all families have secure housing, access to education leading to employment, and the ability to build assets to create a brighter future. They believe that if policies are focused on prevention, and programs are designed to promote opportunities, then we can end family homelessness in Massachusetts.
The Red Sox Scholars Program is an award-winning program, run by the Red Sox Foundation, which provides nine years of mentoring, enrichment activities, and educational scholarships to 262 students of lower-income in the Boston Public School system. Red Sox Scholars are selected in the spring of their 7th grade year. As Scholars advance through high school, the focus of the program shifts to preparing Scholars for job opportunities and helping them to navigate the college application and financial aid processes. In college, the Red Sox Foundation connects with Scholars to determine their scholarship disbursement schedule, prepare resumes, and position themselves to succeed post-graduation.
The Roxbury Center for Financial Empowerment provides residents with the skills and resources to develop their future vision for economic empowerment and move towards personal financial success and wealth building. Residents can access combined services for creating a personal financial plan, developing a job strategy to increase earnings, and using all benefits residents are entitled to. The Roxbury Center partners with expert service providers in the City such as vocational training and adult education basic education providers and key employers. All participants are assign a personal financial coach and receive needed support as they work towards their financial goals. During the tax season the Center offers the VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) free tax preparation program.
Wellspring House empowers individuals and families to live more secure lives through basic needs assistance, education and job training in the North Shore. Wellspring is guided by the vision of a society where all are welcomed and everyone has the opportunity to live a full and positive life. Believing that each life touches every other life, Wellspring works toward this vision of caring for the earth and her people by sharing our resources in a spirit of hospitality.
Women’s Lunch Place restores dignity and empowers personal decision-making by placing the individual needs, preferences and aspirations of its guests at the center of its model of care. Located in Boston’s Back Bay, Women’s Lunch Place welcomes all self-identifying women with open arms and unconditional support through serving nutritious meals six days of the week, and providing individualized services for community members.
Founded in 1991 in response to the worst year of youth violence in Boston’s history, ZUMIX offers award-winning programs in instrumental music, songwriting, performance, radio, and audio engineering. The goal of ZUMIX programs is to provide a brave space for youth to build productive futures and expand their interests and skills in a supportive and nurturing environment. Each year ZUMIX serves over 1000 youth – 500 on-site in its out-of-school programs and 550 youth through in-school partnerships. ZUMIX reaches more than 10,000 additional youth and adults through workshops, community events, and outdoor concerts.