Arrillaga Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The Arrillaga Foundation was established in 1978 by Silicon Valley real estate mogul John Arrillaga. The foundation’s annual giving hovers between $1 million and $5 million, but bigger things may lie ahead. 

FUNDING AREAS: Higher education, health organizations, human services, programs in Menlo Park

IP TAKE: The city of Menlo Park and Stanford University undoubtedly have a special place in John Arrillaga’s heart. Although health organizations and human service programs haven’t been a huge grantmaking priority, local initiatives in these areas haven’t been ruled out.

PROFILE: With his business partner, Richard Peery (read our profile of the Peery Foundation), John Arrillaga made his fortune in Silicon Valley commercial real estate. Arrillaga and Peery bought farmland and transformed it into highly coveted office space that Google and Apple now call home. Arrillaga established a foundation in his name in 1978. At the end of a recent year, the Arrillaga Foundation reported over $24.7 million in assets but just $173,750 in total giving. Other years have seen just over a million in total giving spread across a couple dozen grants. This amount is considerably less than some previous years that saw more like $4,841,327 in total giving. Forbes estimates that Arrillaga is worth $2.3 billion.

Arrillaga’s daughter, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen launched her own foundation to encourage collaboration among philanthropists, but she also serves as a director and board member for her father’s foundation. “But for my father, writing a check is not enough,” Laura said in an interview. “He sees philanthropy as marrying financial resources with intellectual, network and human capital.” Arrillaga’s son, John Jr., also serves on the Arrillaga Foundation board.

At the age of 78, John Arrillaga keeps a relatively low profile about his grantmaking, with a few exceptions. John has no problem showing up the competition with money he gives to his alma mater, Stanford University. He made headlines in the past for awarding a $151 million gift to support university projects, narrowly edging out Dorothy and Robert King’s donation of $150 million. Back in the 1950s, Arrillaga attended Stanford on a basketball scholarship, working several part-time jobs to pay his tuition. In an ongoing commitment to his alma mater, Arrillaga also endowed scholarships to support 50 Stanford students every year.

According to a member of Stanford’s athletic board, Duncan Matteson, “"He's been the patron saint of Stanford athletics.” Former Stanford athletic director, Keith Sparks, said of Arrillaga, “"He pulls the strings. Whatever he wants, that's his domain."

But Arrillaga’s support for athletics isn’t confined to the Stanford campus. Arrillaga gave $2 million to Menlo School in Atherton, California and over $3 million to the City Menlo Park, both to construct gyms. Between 25 and 50 grants are typically made in any given year, and million-dollar grants aren’t uncommon. Higher education institutions, human services organizations, and health organizations are also considered as Arrillaga grant recipients.

Like other wealthy donors such as Mark Zuckerberg, John Sobrato, and Lorry Lokey, John also sends money over to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to let its staff handle the time-consuming grantmaking process. John Arrillaga hasn't signed the Giving Pledge and is into his late 70s. Our bet is that the bulk of his fortune is destined for his foundation and that Laura and John will eventually find themselves controlling serious philanthropic resources. 

Unfortunately for grantseekers, there is no website for the Arrillaga Foundation, and there aren't any staff members to get in touch with directly. There really aren’t any official application forms, either, or hard deadlines. In the past, grant applicants have been asked to submit a description of their organizations and supporting documentation by letter. Your best bet to get in touch is to call the Palo Alto office at 650-618-7000 or write to the foundation at 2450 Watson Court, Palo Alto, CA 94303.

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