Four Things to Know about Eisner Foundation Grantmaking

The Eisner Foundation was established in 1996 by Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner. Today, the foundation is a very active local funder in Los Angeles and one of the most professionalized foundations created in recent decades by an entertainment executive. Eisner, along with his wife Jane and three sons, takes philanthropy seriously and the family knows what it's doing.

One sign of that is the foundation's grantmaking clarity, its flexibility, and accessibility to nonprofits. We can think of more than a few LA funders who could benefit from looking at how the Eisner Foundation operates. 

All that's missing is real-time data on assets and grantmaking totals. But we do know that the foundation reported over $7.3 million in total giving for 2012 and over $126 million in assets at that time. (See a list of recent grants here.)

Related - Eisner Foundation: Grants for Los Angeles

This is an excellent foundation for Los Angeles area nonprofits to become familiarized, if they aren't already. As a starting point, here are four things to know about Eisner Foundation grantmaking:

All Grants Stay in Los Angeles County

Not only do the Eisners care about the needs of Los Angeles County, but their foundation’s grantmaking is exclusively committed to it. The Eisner Foundation does not consider any funding requests that come from outside the county.

The Whole Family Is Involved

Michael Eisner may be the big name here, but his wife and three children (and their spouses) are all involved in the foundation. Only family members are on the board, and it's good to know who's interested in which issues. The foundation's website helpfully spells that out here. At the same time, the foundation also has an executive director, Brent Stamp, and a director of programs, Cathy Choi. Both are widely connected in LA nonprofit and funding circles. 

Almost All Program Areas Are Fair Game

Although the foundation is strict about its geographical constraints and is focused on children and the elderly, it's pretty open to the types of organizations it supports and the types of support it provides. The foundation made grants in each of the following areas over the past year:

  • Abuse & Neglect
  • After-School Programs
  • Aging & Seniors
  • Arts Education
  • Childcare
  • College Access
  • Disability
  • Environmental
  • Family Services
  • Foster Care
  • Healthcare
  • Homelessness
  • Intergenerational Programs
  • K-12 Education
  • Mentoring

And if that show of diversity isn’t enough to catch your attention, you should know that the Eisner Foundation awards all types of support as well. The foundation considers requests for general operating support, project support, capacity building, and capital support during grant cycles.

But it’s important to keep in mind that children and the elderly are always at the heart of Eisner Foundation grants. For children in Los Angeles County, the Eisner Foundation typically supports after-school programs and programs that support arts, quality healthcare options and abuse prevention. For the aging population in Los Angeles County, the foundation supports organizations that improve the quality of life by alleviating poverty, increasing access to healthcare, and promoting cultural enrichment.

Letters of Inquiry Are Accepted All Year

Fortunately for grantseekers in Los Angeles, the Eisner Foundation accepts unsolicited letters of inquiry throughout the year. There are no deadlines to keep track of and no online forms to navigate and download.

Simply send a letter of no more than two pages to the Eisner Foundation by regular mail at its Beverly Hills address. If the staff likes what it sees, they’ll ask you to complete a full application. Your waiting time to hear back will probably only be a few weeks. Nice, right?

Check out Eisner’s How to Apply section for more details.

Related: IP's Profile of Michael Eisner