Diller-von Furstenberg Foundation: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: The Diller-von Furstenberg Foundation is the creation of entertainment and Internet businessman Barry Diller and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. Their family foundation supports a wide range of common causes in New York City and other communities around the world.

FUNDING AREAS: Public Spaces, Community Building, Education, Human Rights, Arts, Health and the Environment

IP TAKE: Although this foundation isn't the most accessible for grantseekers, it does contribute to an equal mix of well-established and up-and-coming nonprofits in New York City. Most of the grantmaking budget goes to community development and education, so focus your introductory pitch accordingly.

PROFILE: Although you might not know their names, you've probably been using or wearing products produced by the Diller-von Furstenberg family for many years now. Barry Diller's Internet company, IAC, has spearheaded hundreds of popular sites such as Match.com, Ask.com, and CollegeHumor.com. His travel company, Expedia Inc., has launched the familiar sites of Hotels.com and Hotwire.com. In his earlier days, Diller was chairman and chief executive of Paramount Pictures, Fox Broadcasting Company, and Fox's motion picture operations. On the fashion side of life, Diane von Furstenberg gained popularity with her iconic wrap dress that led to a global luxury lifestyle brand. Forbes named her the most powerful woman in fashion in 2012.

The high-profile and famous couple started the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation in 1999 to strengthen communities and improve the lives of the less advantaged. Diane's son from a former marriage, Alexander von Furstenberg, is running the foundation these days as the director and secretary. Although Alexander's artist sister, Tatiana, also has a role in the family philanthropy, there aren't any other nonfamily members on staff. And although the foundation has both a local and a global focus, New York-based nonprofits are always given special consideration.

Local grantees have included the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, the New York City Outward Bound Center, New Yorkers for Children, and Continuum Cancer Centers. The foundation has made more than its share of headlines with extremely large grants, such as the $20 million given to help complete New York City's High Line Park. Even though the couple initially donated $15 million to the project, which features a 1.5-mile elevated railway along the west side of Manhattan, they donated an additional $20 million to create a new icon in the city for future generations to use and enjoy. The couple pledged $130 million to create a new island park off the shore of Chelsea. 

However, most of the foundation's grants are more like the one given to New York's Queen Sofia Spanish Institute, which was for $100,000. A list of grantees can be viewed here.

A majority of Diller-von Furstenberg grants go to community-building initiatives, some nationally known and some local passion projects. Youth projects tend to fare well with the foundation, especially Boys & Girls' clubs and social work organizations. Education is the next largest funding category, and local elementary and high schools tend to receive more grants than big-name universities. Grants are pretty evenly disbursed throughout the remaining focus categories, exhibiting more variety in grantmaking than the average foundation in New York City.

Diller-von Furstenberg normally gives $5 million to $10 million to non-profit organizations each year. Most grants are awarded for general operating support rather than specific project development. 

In addition, the foundation only contributes to pre-selected organizations, so there are no readily available application guidelines for grantseekers. As foundation representative, Bethany Prechtl, told IP, "The Foundation is focusing efforts toward organizations with whom we already have established relationships, and are not looking for new grantees at this point."

The best way to keep up with Diller-von Furstenberg dealings is to subscribe to its news blog, which is updated regularly. Alexander von Furstenberg can be reached at afn@iac.com.

PEOPLE:

  • Alexander von Furstenberg, Director and Secretary
  • Tatiana von Furstenberg, Director
  • Diane von Furstenberg, Director 
  • Barry Diller, Director

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