Groupon cofounder Eric Lefkofsky and his wife Liz, who's built a respected career in the nonprofit sector, have been on our radar recently. They signed the Giving Pledge recently, where Chicago has been a recipient of much of their grantmaking. When it comes to health causes, however, grantmaking isn't just confined to Chicago. What exactly are the Lefkofsky's funding and where might money go in the future? Here are three things to know about the Lefkofskys' philanthropy:
1. Cancer research is key
When Liz was young she lost her older sister Stephanie to a brain tumor. Liz's mother, Susan Kramer, joined forces with another mother with a similar story to found the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) in Chicago in 1973. Growing up, Liz used to work at ABTA stuffing envelopes. Unsurprisingly, ABTA has received funds from the couple over the years. Other outfits including Johns Hopkins Medicine, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, the LUNGevity Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have all received funds. These sums have generally been under $100,000 annually.
The couple also recently funded a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation fellow in researching the "role of ion channels in brain cancer" at the University of California. They've also set up the Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Innovation Research Awards at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University.
2. Pediatric health and healthcare is also important
For perhaps similar reasons, pediatric care appears to be another key area for the couple. Lurie Children’s Memorial Hospital, where Lefkofsky sits on the board, received $100,000 in 2012. An earlier gift established the Lefkofsky Family Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at the hospital. The couple has also given to Children's Organ Transplant Association, and University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital. They've also supported the global health initiative, Medical Missions for Children.
3. Still, the couple's interests are not limited
The couple isn't just interested in cancer research and pediatric care. Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, the Food Allergy Initiative, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America are some of the outfits that have been supported by the couple.
Keep in mind that the Lefkofsky's are only in their 40s. Lefkofsky, in addition to running Groupon also owns a venture capital firm called Lightbank. He's also an adjunct professor at University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. In other words, while money coming out of the Lefkofsky Family Foundation isn't yet overwhelming, the couple has yet to focus all of their energy on giving their money away.
Looking ahead, they're in a good position to become a bigger player on issues that extend beyond the Chicago area. Keep an eye on these Giving Pledge signatories, especially in health, where their philanthropy appears to be particularly personal.