Roberts Foundation: Bay Area Grants

OVERVIEW: The Roberts Foundation is the philanthropic vehicle of billionaire George Roberts and his wife, Linnea. The foundation focuses much of its grantmaking on the Bay Area, with education and poverty being top priorities. The foundation is also used to help support a Roberts-founded venture philanthropy effort called REDF, which aims to alleviate poverty.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, poverty, environment, Bay Area community

IP TAKE: Roberts has been a huge funder of all the schools he's gone to. He's also fought poverty through his venture philanthropy outfit. But that's not all he's into, and more modest sums have gone to a wide variety of institutions in the Bay Area.

PROFILE: The son of a Houston oil broker, George Roberts became a partner at Bear Stearns at age 29 after graduating from Claremont McKenna in suburban Los Angeles and attending UC Hastings College of Law. In 1976, he, his cousin Henry Kravis, and Bear Stearns mentor Jerome Kohlberg broke out on their own to found Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts (KKR). Today, KKR manages around $100 billion in assets.

Roberts founded the Roberts Foundation in 1985, and now runs the foundation with his second wife, Linnea, and his children. Roberts has also been involved with philanthropy through the Homeless Economic Development Fund, which supported employment-related nonprofits during the early and mid-1990s. Later, this fund transformed into REDF, which, since its inception in 1997, has supported over 60 social enterprises that employ more than 11,000 people, generating more than $163 million in revenues. The Roberts Foundation supports REDF with annual funding.

In recent years, the Roberts Foundation has held around $70 million in assets and given away more than $15 million annually. The San Fransicsco Bay Area has been a high-priority funding area. In K-12 education, past sums have gone to Sacred Heart Schools Atherton. Modest sums have also gone to KIPP Bay Area Schools.

Most of Roberts' K-12 education grantmaking appears to be taking place outside of the Bay Area however, where, for instance, Roberts' wife, Linnea, sits on the board of Teach for America. Other K-12 sums have gone to New Visions for Public Schools in New York.

In higher education, at least $1 million went to UCSF in a past year. Smaller sums have gone to Roberts' alma mater, UC Hastings College of Law. Outside of the Bay Area, Roberts has been an enormous funder of his undergraduate alma mater Claremont McKenna, as well as to Culver Academies, a consortium of schools in Indiana that Roberts attended. Roberts' military background perhaps explains his support of the Oakland Military Institute.

Another key interest of the Robertses is poverty, where outfits such as outfits such as SF Food Bank, and the Tipping Point Community have received modest support in years. By far, though, the couple's largest forays into this area involve their support of REDF. The fund is located in San Francisco and many of its partners are in the Bay Area. In recent years, REDF has worked with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), with headquarters in Oakland, San Diego, and San Bernardino to help formerly incarcerated men and women. REDF has also worked with the Community Housing Partership in San Francisco, and Goodwill of Silicon Valley.

Environmental conservation and animal rights is also another interest of the Roberts Foundation. This may be in part due to Roberts' first wife, Leanne, who was a prominent board member of the San Francisco SPCA. Robert and Leanne's son, Eric, who is listed as a Vice President at the Roberts Foundation, assumed the board seat at SPCA that was occupied by Leanne. In 2009, the SF SPCA opened the The Leanne B. Roberts Animal Care Center.

In a past year, a little under $500,000 went to the Ark Watch Foundation in Northern California, whose mission is to "improve the welfare of animals in need within the U.S. and Canada." $700,000 also  went to Del Monte Forest Conservancy in Pebble Beach "which conserves, acquires and enhances lands dedicated to open space within Del Monte Forest." Smaller sums have also gone to Eagle Eye Sanctuary Foundation in San Francisco.

In arts and culture, the Roberts couple has supported outfits such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and the SF Ballet. SF Ballet received $5 million alone in a past year. Linnea sits on the board at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In health, past sums have gone to the UCSF Cancer Center, which received at least $1 million. Check out the funder's current portfolio to learn about more recent giving.


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The Roberts Foundation
2755 Campus Drive, Suite 240
San Mateo, CA 94403