Behind a Big Healthcare Give by the Lefkofsky Foundation

The Lefkofsky Family Foundation’s grant amounts aren’t typically big. Most tend to stay under the $100,000 mark. On occasion, though, the foundation established by Groupon cofounder Eric Lefkofsky and his wife Liz will award a sizable grant. For example, the foundation gave $800,000 to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in 2013 and in 2012 it made a $250,000 grant to the Waterkeeper's Alliance, a group that protects rivers, streams, and coastlines worldwide, including the Great Lakes.

But these big grants are not the norm for the Lefkofsky Foundation, which is why it’s pretty big news that it gave $1.2 million to the University of Michigan late this spring. 

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The Lefkofsky Foundation is big into health care giving, with most of that money staying around the Chicagoland area. So it’s a bit of a surprise that such a big give went to U of M rather than say, Northwestern. But Eric Lefkofsky is a U of M alum, so that sort of explains why his foundation would give the school such a large sum.

The foundation’s $1.2 million grant was awarded to the University of Michigan Health System and will toward the creation and support of a clinical research scholars program. The money will underwrite the Lefkofsky Scholars program, which awards six scholarships to young researchers studying heart disease and cancer. The program will focus improved therapies in breast cancer, early detection of pancreatic cancer, and the use of lab grown cells to treat heart disease.

When speaking of the big give, Eric Lefkofsky highlighted the groundbreaking work researchers were conducting at the university and how he’s hoping that the foundation’s $1.2 million donation will allow the world “see these life-saving ideas make a real difference for people and families.”

The foundation’s gift to U of M isn’t unusual insomuch as a portion of the money is being dedicated to cancer research. The Lefkofsky’s and their foundation have a history of supporting cancer-related organizations including the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, the LUNGevity Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The couple also recently provided funding to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation to support its research work related to ion channels and brain cancer. The big difference here is that those grants and donations have typically been under $100,000 annually.

Related: What Do We Know About Liz Lefkofsky and the Lefkofsky Family Foundation?

So does this signal a big uptick in the Lefkofsky’s grantmaking? We couldn’t say for certain. But the couple is young and so is their foundation. If the U of M grant is a signal of things to come, then we can reasonably expect that the Lefkofsky Family Foundation will continue to grow and become an even bigger presence in the health funding space.