Getting to Know a Bit about the John Stauffer Charitable Trust

There’s a Southern California foundation giving millions of dollars away to hospitals and universities in California, and many Los Angeles groups don’t even know about it. This foundation is the John Stauffer Charitable Trust, and it recently made news for giving $500,000 to Westmont College’s chemistry department to fund a summer research program.

This is a private funder in every sense of the word. The foundation doesn’t have a website, and doesn’t make its practices transparent to grantseekers. A lot of Stauffer’s grants go to groups in the Los Angeles area, yet the foundation’s roots are in San Francisco. This makes it a funder to watch pretty much in the entire state of California.

The trust was established in in 1974 by the will of the late John Stauffer Jr. He was the son of John Stauffer Sr., a German immigrant who found success in importing and exporting raw materials like ballast and sulfur. The family company was called the Stauffer Chemical Company.

Like many private family funders, Stauffer is a grantmaker that likes matching grants. The recent Westmont College mentioned above was a matching grant, and the school kicked in an additional $500,000 for its program. Stauffer has awarded grants to lots of universities and colleges in California over the years, including Caltech, UC Berkeley, Pepperdine, and University of the Pacific.

But despite all these good deeds, Stauffer has received its fair share of criticism, too. It was cited in a 2003 New York Times article and called out in Nonprofit Quarterlyfor having paid “…each of its trustees $130,000, not including legal fees paid to the law firm of one of the trustees, and made nine grants, five to universities where two Stauffer trustees were also board members and another serves as a vice president emeritus.”

But that was 13 years ago, so let’s not dwell on the past.

These days, the John Stauffer Charitable Trust is a foundation that isn’t shy about putting its name where its money is. For example, there’s the John Stauffer Science Center at Whittier College and the John Stauffer Chemistry Building at Stanford University. More recently, Glendale Adventist Medical Center announced a new John Stauffer Charitable Trust Community Health Van, which was an RV-sized mobile health van that was made possible with a $500,000 grant from the funder.

At the end of a recent year, the John Stauffer Charitable Trust reported nearly $50.8 million in assets and just shy of $2 million in annual grants. This is a big funder of academic institutions, but past subjects of interest have included biology and chemistry, education, health, higher education, undergraduate education, hospital care, in-patient medical care, physical and earth sciences, and general science.