Lefkofsky Family Foundation: Grants for Chicago

OVERVIEW: The Lefkofsky Family Foundation was established by Groupon cofounder Eric Lefkofsky and his wife Liz. The couple gives to education, health care, medical research, fundamental human rights, and arts and culture in the Chicago area.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, health care, medical research, fundamental human rights, arts and culture

IP TAKE: The Lefkofskys have stepped up their giving in recent years and have wide interests. They are also Giving Pledge signatories, so much more may be on the way. 

PROFILE: Established in 2006, the Lefkofsky Family Foundation is the foundation of Eric Lefkofsky, who is best known for cofounding Groupon. Prior to Groupon, he worked on a number of different ventures and is described by some as a "serial entrepreneur." Lefkofsky went to University of Michigan for his undergraduate studies and then went to Michigan Law.

Lefkofsky and his wife Liz founded the Lefkofsky Family Foundation with a mission of "supporting charitable, scientific, and educational organizations and causes around the world." The couple's grantmaking involves several key areas, including education, health, human rights, and arts and culture.

Health is one of the few areas of the couple's philanthropy that hasn't been just confined to Chicago. As a child, Liz lost her older sister to cancer. Liz's mother, Susan Kramer, started the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) in the wake of her daughter's death. ABTA, Damon Runyon and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have all received funds. Some of the largest sums in recent years have gone to NorthShore University Health System in Chicago. Lefkofsky sits on the board at Lurie Children’s Memorial Hospital, which has received large sums too. Lurie Children's is also the site of the Lefkofsky Family Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). The couple has also given to University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital. 

The couple has also given to local Chicago education outfits. They've given to AUSL (Academy for Urban School Leadership), which serves over 17,000 students in 29 Chicago Public Schools. Citizen Schools, After School Matters and UCAN, a youth social services program, have all received funding. Generally, these sums have rarely exceeded $25,000. The couple has also supported Young Women's Leadership Charter School. 

The vast majority of the Lefkofskys' giving in arts and culture is done in their hometown of Chicago. They've given at least $7 million to Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where Lefkofsky sits on the board of trustees. Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art has received at least $2.5 million, and the Art Institute of Chicago more than $1.5 million. Aside from the major support of these two museums, the Lefkofskys' other major cultural contribution was a $100,000 donation to the organization responsible for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid. They have made smaller contributions, generally ranging from $1,000 to $20,000, to other Chicago-areas museums, dance, theatre, and ballet companies, a public radio station, and the Chicago Botanic Garden. One of their few gifts outside the Chicago area went to the Aspen Art Museum.

Finally, the couple has given to organizations such as Planned Parenthood of Illinois, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, a couple of Jewish advocacy groups, and an organization that serves homeless Chicagoans. The fundamental human rights funding area is a global one.

Overall, grants typically range from $1,000 to well into the millions of dollars. The funder does not publish an online grants database on its website. Much of the foundation’s grantmaking takes place in Chicago, where the couple resides and where Groupon is headquartered. 

The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals. For organizations that have been invited to apply for a grant, proposals are reviewed on a quarterly basis and multi-year support is possible for organizations that have received prior support. Grantseekers can contact the foundation by calling 312-906-7477 or emailing info@lffoundation.com.


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