You Say Haas, I Say Haas: Key Differences Between the Bay Area's Two Haas Funds

Distinguishing between all the Haas family members and their charitable acts can make a grantseeker’s head spin.

The Walter & Elise Haas Fund was established by Walter Haas Sr. (1889-1979), the president of Levi Strauss & Co. in 1952. The other Haas foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund was established by his son, Walter A. Haas Jr. (1916-1995) just a year later in 1953.

We explain the older foundation here: Walter & Elise Haas Fund: Bay Area Grants. And the later one here: Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund: Bay Area Grants

In short, both father and son have Bay Area-focused foundations named after them, but the nature of these philanthropies is quite different. Here are the key differences to know about the Haas Sr. and Hass Jr. Funds.

Program Priority Areas

The Walter & Elise Haas Fund spreads its funding around pretty equally to the arts, education, economic security, and Jewish life. Each of those four program areas received between 16 percent and 23 percent of total giving in 2012. Elise was passionate about art, so the staff keeps a high priority on art education and collaboration with social justice overtones.

In contrast, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund places a disproportionately high priority on immigrant rights and LGBT rights. Haas Jr. is also on the forefront of the gay marriage debate and doesn’t shy away from controversial funding. In fact, Haas Jr. has contributed over $60 million toward marriage equality and nondiscrimination efforts for gays and lesbians over the last 12 years.

Unsolicited Proposals

Although the Walter & Elise Haas Fund does accept unsolicited letters of inquiry for most programs, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund does not. Arts nonprofit leaders are encouraged to attend an optional application seminar to learn more about the Haas Sr.’s Creative Work Fund, and grantseekers for other programs can expect to hear back within six weeks of submitting an initial letter of inquiry. But don’t write Hass Jr. off just yetthe foundation promises to keep grantseekers updated about its changing application policies in the months ahead.

Assets and Total Giving

Walter Sr.’s fund may have been around a bit longer, but his Jr.'s foundation has over double the assets and gives out significantly more grant money each year. At the start of 2013, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund reported around $216.7 million in total assets and $11,396,401 in annual grants. That same year, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund had $451 million in assets and gave out $23.1 million in grants. And those figures are only getting larger, with $29.6 million reported for grants awarded for 2013. But although Haas Jr. gives out more grant money each year, the size of grants between the two foundations is comparable. Most grants for both funds fall in the $10,000 to $200,000 range.