Dan Murphy Foundation: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: The Dan Murphy Foundation awards grants almost exclusively to organizations affiliated with the Catholic religion. The foundation often makes around 100 grants each year, averaging in size from $2,000 to $2 million

FUNDING AREAS: Catholic agencies and churches, higher education, human services, and secondary school/education

IP TAKE: If you're not running a Catholic organization, the Dan Murphy Foundation probably won't be able to help you out. Regional diocese and Catholic high schools consistently top the Murphy grant charts.

PROFILE: Lots of philanthropic foundations receive recognition from the press, but few are praised by the pope. Dan Murphy has granted so much money to the Roman Catholic Church through his foundation that the pope granted him the title of "Papal Countess" and "Gentleman of His Holiness," which is the highest award bestowed on any layman of the Church and the first time it has been given to an American.

The Dan Murphy Foundation, which was incorporated in 1957, was founded by the late Bernadine Murphy Donohue in memory of her father, Dan Murphy, to support activities and charities of the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and inner-city Catholic high schools receive preferential treatment, but some colleges, social service agencies, and religious orders have recently picked up grants from the foundation as well.

Most of the Dan Murphy Foundation's grants go toward general operating support and program development. The foundation makes around 100 grants each year, with between $2,000 and $2 million. A couple years back, a significant grant was made to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, to the sweet tune of $3.5 million.

Past grantmaking has been around $11 million per year, and the foundation's assets have hovered around $214 million.

Although most of the foundation's grant money stays in the Los Angeles area, Murphy also has sent money across lines to support the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, and the Franciscan Missionary Sisters in Beaverton, Oregon. Organizations in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, and New York also have seen Dan Murphy grant money roll in. International causes, however, are not supported.

Unlike many foundations in Los Angeles, this one is not all that well-rounded or multidimensional. The Dan Murphy Foundation was created for a purpose, and it has stayed true to that purpose since the beginning. Most philanthropists steer clear of religion because they do not want to polarize or alienate their supporters and applicants. Before it was closed in 2008, the Dan Murphy High School in Los Angeles received a steady flow of grant funds to support its Catholic programs. Originally named St. John Vianney High School, the school was renamed to acknowledge the significant monetary contributions from this businessman and civic leader.

Simply put, if you're not running a Catholic organization, Dan Murphy probably won't help you. Your faith-based programs don't need to be particularly innovative or original to get noticed by the board of trustees either. Almost all of Dan Murphy Foundation grantees are Catholic schools or faith-based social service agencies that provide a traditional menu of services. The foundation has recently undergone some internal personnel disputes, and a 2012 civil lawsuit spawned from a board member's removal with questionable cause.

However, there's still plenty of grant money floating around the foundation these days if your allegiances lie with the Holy Pope. Although the foundation's trustees tend to initiate the grant process, they probably won't outright reject your unsolicited grant proposal. The board meets on a quarterly basis to discuss proposals, and you can contact Executive Director Debra Kay Duncan at 213-623-3120 with questions about what to send and when to send it.

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