It was another banner year for the Boston Foundation.
The foundation, which is a major grant-making organization that distributes tens of millions of dollars to thousands of nonprofit groups annually, more than doubled the amount of donations it received last year, to about $155 million - up from a near-record $72 million the year before.
The windfall brings its total assets to nearly $1 billion, and the foundation increased its grant-making accordingly. It gave away $92 million in 2007, centering its philanthropy on Boston-area organizations that focus on education, workforce development, and housing.
That payout was the largest in the foundation's history.
"It's an extraordinary uptick in a flat economy," spokesman David Trueblood said, "and the more we have, the bigger impact and the bigger difference we can make."
Foundation executives attributed the increase in donations largely to a willingness to accept gifts other than cash and stock - the types of donations foundations typically receive.
Last year, Trueblood said, fully half the donations were so-called complex financial instruments, such as business partnerships, real estate holdings, and artworks.
Even an Internet address, farm.com, was donated to the foundation in 2006; within a week it had sold for $200,000.
Among the gifts of art the foundation has received are a Mark Rothko painting and a col lection of ceramics created by Brother Thomas Bezanson valued at $15 million.
The foundation's ability to process these unusual, illiquid, and often complicated "funky gifts," as Trueblood described them, "has been very much worth the trouble," he said.
Under the leadership of Paul S. Grogan, who became chief executive in 2001, the foundation has also aggressively increased its public profile and taken on a greater role in civic leadership - moves that have helped to bolster donations, as well.
In an effort to become more visible in the region, the foundation routinely commissions research, publishes studies, convenes task forces, and promotes legislation that it believes could bring positive social change.
The Boston Foundation gives grants to several thousand nonprofit groups each year. It directs its money to organizations that help the region remain economically competitive and that help disadvantaged populations become upwardly mobile. It also supports many nonprofits that fund educational programs, and it created an $840,000 fund designed to help public schools in Boston explore the possibility of converting to pilot schools.
Last year, in response to an increase in urban violence, the foundation also raised nearly $900,000 to help support 75 neighborhood-based organizations that serve Boston teenagers.
"The Boston Foundation is becoming the kind of philanthropic engine we hoped it could be," Grogan said in a prepared statement.
Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.