Groupon Cash, Chicago Causes: Lefkofsky Philanthropy Is Going Strong

Almost everyone has heard of Groupon, the website the helps users snag daily deals by featuring discounted gift certificates. Groupon, which had around $2.5 billion revenue in 2013, is helmed by CEO Eric Lefkofsky, one of three cofounders of the Chicago-headquartered company. The company's not the big deal that it once was, but Lefkofsky and his wife Liz are definitely becoming a big deal in Chicago philanthropy. The young couple have already signed the Giving Pledge and have been engaged in a steady stream of grantmaking through the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, established in 2006. Like many other young entrepreneurs these days, Eric Lefkofsky isn't interesting in putting off philanthropy to a later time. 

Lefkofsky is worth $1.6 billion and gave away around $4 million in 2013 through the foundation, mainly to Chicago area outfits. A bit more than that went out the door in 2012. Here are a few other things to know about this Chicago funder:

1. Health is a priority and very personal 

Growing up, Liz lost her older sister to cancer. Liz's mother, Susan Kramer, and another Chicago area mother started the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) in the wake of the passing of their daughters. Liz, in fact, used to stuff envelopes at ABTA as a youth. Unsurprisingly, ABTA has received support from the Lefkofskys. Another outfit in Chicago that has received funding is LUNGevity, which "connects people to lung cancer survivorship through research, education and support." Outside of Chicago, other cancer research outfits such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,  and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have received funds.

The couple's philanthropy isn't just limited to cancer research, though. They've also been supportive of Chicago hospitals. NorthShore University Health System received at least $250,000 in 2010, $100,000 in 2011 at least $100,000 in 2013. Eric Lefkofsky also sits on the board at Lurie Children’s Memorial Hospital, which received nearly $800,000 in 2013, the couple's biggest gift by far that year. Lurie Children's is also the site of the Lefkofsky Family Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). The couple has also given to University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital. 

2. The couple are strong supporters of education in Chicago

In recent years, Lefkofsky money has gone to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL), which serves over 17,000 students in 29 Chicago Public Schools, and also to Citizen Schools, After School Matters, and UCAN. The sizes of these gifts have varied. AUSL recieved $100,000 in 2013, while the Chicago Public Education fund received $91,000. Generally, though, local education gifts in recent years have been smaller than that. The couple has also supported a charter called Young Women's Leadership Charter School.

3. Sums have gone to art and Chicago civic life

At least $7 million has gone to Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where Eric Lefkofsky sits on the board of trustees. Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art has received at least $2.5 million, and the Art Institute of Chicago more than $1.5 million. It's worth noting that Liz has a large personal art collection. 

Apart from art, the Lefkofskys have made a $100,000 donation to the organization responsible for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid. Smaller sums have gone to other Chicago-areas museums, dance, theatre, and ballet companies, a public radio station, and the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The important thing to note in all of this is that the Lefkofskys' philanthropy is just beginning, but with the couple's steady support of Chicago outfits and the particularly personal reasons behind their health philanthropy, this is a funder to watch.