Perelman Family Foundation: New York City Grants

OVERVIEW: The Perelman Family Foundation focuses its grantmaking on New York City, and more specifically on the large hospitals, museums, and universities in it. The foundation doesn't give out a lot of grants each year, but the ones it does award are very substantial in size.

IP TAKE: If you're running a local New York City nonprofit, pitch a human services or secondary education proposal to Perelman. The health program and the higher education program are too crowded with big-name favorites that are prominently displayed throughout the city.

PROFILE: Even if you aren't familiar with Ronald Perelman's philanthropy, you're probably already familiar with some of his investments. Through his company, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., he's done countless deals with mass-marketed cosmetic companies, military and biotechnology equipment companies, food product companies, and pharmaceutical companies. Perelman once even owned Marvel Entertainment Group, and the stories of his Marvel adventures were caricatured in a comic book called "Titans of Finance."

With a net worth of around $12.2 billion, Perelman is one of the the biggest philanthropists not only in New York City but in the world. But with great wealth comes great controversy, as he's been mixed up in a steady array of scandals and lawsuits involving Greenmail, Monica Lewinsky, Panavision, Fred Tepperman, and five different wives. He established his foundation in 1999 to channel his charitable giving to art and health organizations, human services, Jewish causes, and United Way giving programs. Health causes tend to top the grant charts, and Perelman even founded the Revlon/UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program and the Department of Dermatology at New York University's Medical Center.

Perelman has served as president of the Guggenheim Museum and on the boards of some other art programs, but art program giving is a bit few and far between. Perelman made headlines with a $100 million gift to Columbia Business School to propel business education and innovation in New York City. Other past grants around the city include $2.5 million to Weill Medical College of Cornell University, $1.5 million to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and $160,000 to Brooklyn-based Machne Israel.

Overall, the foundation's focus areas are women’s health, education and the arts.

Almost all Perelman grants are given for general operating support and payable over one year. The foundation tends to give out just 25 to 50 grants each year, with the average grant being between $1,000 and $350,000. Of course, these aren't the grants that you hear about on the nightly news.

The Perelman Foundation doesn't have a website or a staff to reach out to for grant application guidance. In fact, the foundation doesn't welcome unsolicited grant applications at all. However, the foundation does have a page on the MacAndrews & Forbes Inc. website, which reiterates some of the foundation's history described here and it's position against unsolicited grant requests. You can also catch up on some foundation press releases here.

Although most Perelman grant recipients are major city hospitals, large universities, national memorials, and prominent museums, the foundation does regularly award funds to local nonprofits too. For example, Perelman sits on the board of directors of the Police Athletic League of New York City, which is a youth developmental agency that serves inner-city children and teenagers. He has also made significant political contributions to both Democrat and Republican candidates.

Judaism has been a big part of Perelman's life, and he contributes regularly to Jewish-related causes. However, unlike some foundations in the city, he is not particularly partial to nonprofits that share his beliefs and join him at temple. Unfortunately, the only way to reach the private and not-so-transparent Perelman Foundation is through the donor's company, MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings. The best way to get in touch is by calling Robert Karp, foundation president, at 212-572-5149.

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