United Plankton Charitable Trust: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: The United Plankton Charitable Trust is the philanthropic vehicle of SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg and his wife Karen. The couple's Los Angeles grantmaking supports the arts, education, and more.

IP TAKE: The foundation keeps a low public profile and does not accept unsolicited proposals. The future direction of the foundation’s grantmaking remains unclear following Stephen Hillenburg’s death in November 2018.

PROFILE: Born in Oklahoma in 1961 and raised in Anaheim, Stephen Hillenburg tapped his passion for marine biology and the arts and created Nickelodeon's smash hit SpongeBob SquarePants. His wife, Karen, meanwhile, is a California native with a culinary background. The Hillenburgs founded United Plankton Charitable Trust (whose name is drawn from Hillenburg's production company) last decade, and in recent years made grants of just under $500,000 annually via the charity.

Unfortunately for grant seekers the foundation keeps a low profile and does not accept unsolicited proposals.

United Plankton Charitable Trust's grantmaking supports Los Angeles, including suburbs like Pasadena. In the arts, the foundation has supported organizations like Armory Center for the Art in Pasadena, public radio station KCRW, LACMA, Pasadena Art Alliance, and Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS) an organization that advocates for the "creation, presentation, and recognition of experimental art and sound practices in the Greater Los Angeles area."

The foundation supports CalArts. Other grantees include Pasadena Conservatory of Music , Polytechnic Schools, Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena, and UCLA Foundation.

This funder’s Los Angeles health grantmaking supports organizations like Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles, and the IGN Foundation, which supports research into Oligo tumors, a rare type of brain tumor. The family has also supported Liberty Hill Foundation, a social justice organization.

The future of this foundation’s grantmaking remains unclear since Stephen Hillenburg’s death in November 2018.


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The United Plankton Charitable Trust does not provide a clear avenue for getting in touch with the couple, but below is an address

United Plankton Charitable Trust
11400 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste. 590
Los Angeles, CA 90064