Durfee Foundation: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: The Durfee Foundation was built upon the success of the $5 billion Avery office supplies company and takes a very unique approach to grantmaking. This Los Angeles-centric funder chooses to help local nonprofit leaders be creative, avoid burnout and encourage new leaders to emerge in region. Almost all grants stay inside the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, and each Durfee program has its own set of requirements and application guidelines posted on the foundation website. Durfee grants and fellowships generally fall in the $50,000 to $100,000 range.

FUNDING AREAS: Nonprofit leadership, high school science learning, emerging Los Angeles leaders

IP TAKE: Are you a nonprofit leader who seriously needs a break and some inspiration? If so, Durfee just became your favorite grantmaker in the universe. It supports creative individuals and community leaders who need a little boost to keep going.

PROFILE: R. Stanton Avery invented the first commercial self-adhesive label machine and founded Avery International, which is now the Fortune 500 merger company Avery Dennison. Avery the man has been described as somewhat of a rebel, studying liberal arts instead of following his father into the ministry and taking a year off school to travel in China. It was here that Avery first experienced hardship, poverty, and the need for nonprofit organizations around the world.

The Durfee Foundation is named after Avery’s late wife, Dorothy Durfee Avery, who established the grantmaking entity with her husband in 1960. Over the past 50 years, the foundation has awarded more than $30 million in grants, most of which are in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. At the end of 2013, the Durfee Foundation reported nearly $30 million in total assets and over $1.1 million in annual grants.

Durfee is relatively small in size and staff, and grantmaking is generally organized through one of the established programs: Sabbatical, Stanton Fellowship, Springboard Fund, and Earthwatch Ignite. The bulk of annual grantmaking funds has been going towards Stanton Fellowships ($482,115 in 2013), followed by Earthwatch ($286,500) and Sabbatical awards ($212,500).

Almost all Durfee grantmaking focuses on the Los Angeles area, which is where the foundation’s history lies and where funding is always in high demand. Durfee rewards individual initiative and leadership and describes itself as a patient grantmaker, one that’s willing to wait many years for outcomes that may or may not be measurable.

Caroline Avery, Stan’s granddaughter, directs the family-run foundation today and leads third-generation Averys who serve on the Board. When Carrie took the reins in 1993, she longed to support overworked, stressed out, and underpaid nonprofit workers in the community. She launched Durfee’s sabbatical program in 1997 to enable grant recipients to design their own time off based on what pursuits would be most rejuvenating for them. Although other funders have criticized this program for being indulgent when there are serious needs to be filled, avoiding the “burnout factor” remains one of Durfee’s top priorities and it’s been working well for nonprofit leaders. Durfee Sabbatical Program offers up to six individuals stipends and expenses of up to $40,000 to travel, reflect or otherwise renew themselves in whatever manner they choose.

Durfee’s Stanton Fellowship provides up to six fellows with $75,000 each over a two-year period to contemplate about intractable problems in their sector and develop solutions for the people of Los Angeles.

Related: Meet Gregory Rodriguez: The Durfee Foundation Stanton Fellow Who's Redefining Journalism in Los Angeles

Durfee’s Springboard Fund offers unrestricted two-year grants of up to $50,000 to support dynamic leaders of new social-benefit ventures in Los Angeles. The foundation partnered with Earthwatch to offer Los Angeles high school students the chance to spend two summertime weeks working with professional research scientists at a scientific research station. The grant program is called Earthwatch Ignite and recent research sites were the Los Alamos National Observatory in New Mexico and the Skagit River Basin in Washington.

You can apply for Durfee program grants online, and each program has its own set of deadlines and requirements. To get in touch with the Santa Monica office with general questions, send an email to admin@durfee.org or by phone at 310-899-5120.


  • Search for staff contact info and bios in PeopleFinder (paid subscribers only.)