John Neely of Lexington, MA, and chair of The Putnam Foundation's Environmental Committee, on the town green in Temple, NH. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

John Neely of Lexington, MA, and chair of The Putnam Foundation's Environmental Committee, on the town green in Temple, NH. Photo by Cheryl Senter.

Philanthropy for the planet

Putnam family committed to environmental protection

For generations, the Putnam family’s philanthropy has strengthened New Hampshire communities. The Putnams have invested in the arts, education, in historic preservation.

As the family has grown, and spread from the Monadnock region, so have interests and passions — but the family’s generous nature remains unchanged.

In 2008, the extended family decided to devote significant resources to environmental issues — and, specifically, climate change.

“As a family, we see that as a huge challenge and want to make a difference,” said John Neely, who is four generations removed from Markem Corporation founder F.A. Putnam and chair of the Putnam Foundation’s Environmental Focus Committee.

The Putnams have — through donor advised funds at the Charitable Foundation and their family foundation — contributed to environmental organizations and projects from New Hampshire to Harlem to Nepal. The Charitable Foundation helps inform the family’s grantmaking.

Local grantees include the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, which makes small grants and provides training to grassroots groups working on environmental issues. In New Hampshire, NEGEF has been supporting local energy committees and environmental groups that are helping municipalities and schools reduce energy use.

“The results of NEGEF’s work speak for themselves,” Neely said. “Small direct grants result in fast, visible impact.”

NEGEF provided technical assistance as the Town of Temple worked to retrofit town buildings — including a retrofit of the town’s Municipal Building which resulted in an approximate 80 percent reduction in use of heating fuel.

Neely believes that philanthropy has a significant role to play in tackling environmental problems.

“The philanthropy that we do, and that other like-minded people do, is vital,” Neely said. “Without it, the movement would be much slower.”

This story originally appeared in the Foundation’s 2013 Annual Report.