Atlas Family Foundation: Grants for Early Childhood Education

OVERVIEW: Former Goldman Sachs Partner Richard Atlas, his wife Lezlie, and family move their philanthropy through the Atlas Family Foundation, which gives primarily in Southern California, focusing on early childhood intervention programming. 

IP TAKE: The foundation does not have an explicit program for early childhood education, but its work includes supporting organizations in this space. 

PROFILE: Richard Atlas retired in 1994 as a general partner at Goldman Sachs. His Atlas Family Foundation was established in the mid 1980s. Later, when Atlas was helping to raise major gifts for his Harvard Business School reunion, the trajectory of his philanthropy charged. He spoke with his former HBS classmate Bob Haas, who funded community-based programs in San Francisco. Atlas and family have since focused on early childhood intervention programming in Los Angeles. 

As Atlas once put it, "I remember visiting a tenement in MacArthur Park. Toddlers played barefoot among feral cats and feces. Moldy and rusty water seeped from faucets. Mattresses and old towels were stuffed in closets for sleeping. I was so affected by seeing how these people were living that when I left, I sat and cried in my car. I was motivated to get involved in a level of depth that I hadn’t thought about before, and it’s changed my life."

The Atlas Family Foundation invests in "building human capital supporting community-based programs that place individuals on a trajectory to good health and success by serving the needs of young children and their families in Southern California." The foundation supports direct services, intervention and education programs for children prenatal to three and their families, and public policy/advocacy that create systemic improvement in their lives. 

To be clear, the foundation doesn't solely focus on early childhood education: it's a component of their work. The foundation makes about sixteen grants a year, averaging around $50,000 per grant.

Organizations seeking funding from the Atlases must first be invited to submit an LOI. This begins with an initial meeting. For a full look at the grantmaking process, click here. 


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