Our History

60 years of partnership

Over the past six decades, Third Sector New England, Inc. (TSNE) has seen a few name changes, but our commitment to being a trusted partner to the people and organizations of the nonprofit sector has remained a constant from day one. We are dedicated to building the leadership and effectiveness of individuals and groups in New England, and across the country. 

Where We Started

Massachusetts Health Research Institute (MHRI, 1959)

Founded by leaders from government and academia nearly 60 years ago, MHRI began as a fiscal sponsor for public and community health research and demonstration projects in Massachusetts. Through this work, we recognized the need many organizations had for solid financial and administrative foundations that allowed them to focus on achieving their mission. Today, fiscal sponsorship continues to be one of the most recognized services we offer. 

Where We’ve Been

Third Sector New England, Inc.

In the late 1990s, we reinvented ourselves by expanding our mission beyond public health projects to encompass more of the nonprofit sector — and that’s when we became Third Sector New England, Inc. During that time, we:

  • Developed more capacity building services for nonprofits, expanded our fiscal sponsorship practice, launched one of the region’s longest standing training programs for nonprofit professionals and, in 2007, began offering executive transition consulting services, becoming the largest provider of executive transitions in New England.
  • Entered into grantmaking to further our capacity building efforts through the Diversity Initiative in 2001 which focused on building diversity in staff and boards; and in 2004, we began the Capacity Building Fund which supported networks of nonprofits committed to social change.
  • Acquired the New England Nonprofit Quarterly, which soon became the Nonprofit Quarterly, a mainstay of the national nonprofit infrastructure that spun off from Third Sector New England in 2006.

What’s Next

The NonProfit Center, TSNE, and Beyond

Our experience in launching new programs and community-building initiatives led to the creation of new collaborative spaces, networks, resources, and partnerships that continue to support innovation in the nonprofit sector.

In 2004, TSNE opened the NonProfit Center in Boston, a 110,000 s.f. building designed to provide rentable office and meeting space for nonprofits. In addition to being a home base to nearly 50 organizations. The building is a mainstay in Boston that features a new, state-of-the-art conference center for nonprofit and community gatherings. In 2019, we became the operators of The Link, a learning and coworking space developed in partnership with the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority and Boston Properties, designed to enhance workforce development in the area's tech sector.

We are also a co-founder and active member of several professional networks aimed at advancing the work of the nonprofit sector, including the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, The Nonprofit Centers Network, and the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors.

At TSNE, we keep our pulse on trends in the field to discover new ways to strengthen the nonprofits, communities, foundations, and people we serve. Our original research projects have been widely reviewed and shared with the sector including: Reimagining Fiscal Sponsorship in Service of Equity report (2021), Valuing Our Nonprofit Workforce compensation studies (2017, 2014 and 2010), Moving Beyond the Person report (2019), Opportunity in Change (2017, with The Boston Foundation), Leadership New England study (2015), Funding Learning Networks for Community Impact (2013), Inclusion Initiative report (2013), Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Diversity in the Workplace (2010), Creative Disruption a sabbatical study (2009), and the Executive Directors Guide (2002, 2010).

Today, TSNE offers our programs and resources for an ever-increasing network of nonprofits, helping organizations strengthen their operations, live out their values, discover new opportunities, collaborate, learn and thrive. We continue to evolve our services in fiscal sponsorship, human resources consulting, executive search and transitions, and leadership and management training for nonprofit professionals. We are committed to discovering new ways of investing in innovative ideas and organizations that advance equity. In the past decade, we have invested more than $10 million in this work. Our investments have included grants to support diversity and inclusion, network building, community organizing, and space for organizations to work, network and convene.

As we look to the future, we will continue to deepen our partnerships, evolve our social impact strategies, and reach for excellence in the services we offer to hundreds of mission-driven organizations every year, so together we can create a more just and democratic society.