OVERVIEW: The Eisner Foundation has traditionally focused grantmaking on children and the elderly in Los Angeles County. Now it's taken an intergenerational approach to grantmaking that's pretty unprescedented around the country. Grants to large, well-established organizations tend to be in the $100,000 to $300,000 range, while grants to small, grassroots nonprofits are more like $10,000 to $25,000.
FUNDING AREAS: Children, the elderly, poverty, health, arts education, education, violence prevention, foster care, aging with dignity
IP TAKE: This is an transparent and accessible funder, and grants are distributed to connect children and the elderly in truly unique and local ways.
PROFILE: Due in part to the overwhelming success of the Walt Disney Company, Michael and Jane Eisner established the Eisner Foundation in 1996. After working at NBC, CBS, ABC, and Paramount Studios, Eisner served as the Chairman and CEO of Disney from 1984 to 2005. Today, he remains active with his investment company, the Tornante Company, his studio, Vuguru, and his philanthropy, the Eisner Foundation.
For over 20 years, Eisner has been committed to local giving, with the children and aging of Los Angeles County firmly stationed as top priorities. The foundation gives exclusively to nonprofits that improve the lives of underserved, disadvantaged, and vulnerable young people and old people in Los Angeles. Eisner gives about $7 million each year to local nonprofits. At the end of 2012, the foundation reported over $7.3 million in total giving and over $126 million in assets.
In mid-2015, the foundation updated its grantmaking policy to strictly focus on programs that allow youth to assist the elderly and the elderly to assist youth. It's Los Angeles-specific, in terms of geography and really aims at mutual intergenerational benefit.
For children in Los Angeles County, the Eisner Foundation typically supports after-school programs and programs that support arts, quality healthcare options and abuse prevention. For the aging population in Los Angeles County, the foundation supports organizations that improve the quality of life by alleviating poverty, offering access to healthcare, and promoting cultural enrichment. Eisner considers requests for general operating support, project support, capacity building, and capital support.
Most Eisner grants are between $100,000 and $300,000 for well-established organizations in the Los Angeles area. However, the foundation also makes $10,000 to $25,000 grants to smaller, grassroots organizations. Past Eisner grants have been awarded to the Alliance for Children’s Rights, Children Today, Common Sense Media, Grandparents as Parents, Inside Out Community Arts, and North Valley Caring Services. (See a list of here.) There are a few special initiatives as well, including California Institute of the Arts, the Michael D. Eisner College of Education, the Eisner Pediatric & Family Medical Center, and the Eisner Prize for Intergenerational Excellence.
To apply for an Eisner grant, Los Angeles County organizations must complete a letter of inquiry consisting of no more than two pages. There are no deadlines to apply for a grant, as letters of intent are accepted year-around on a rolling basis. Nonprofits will be notified if they are invited to submit a full grant application and the timeline for the review process at that time. It usually only takes a few weeks to hear back about the status of a LOI.
Eisner comes from a long line of philanthropists, so this isn’t just a Disney thing. His grandfather and great-grandfather’s uniform manufacturer provided all of the Boy Scouts of America uniforms for decades. The Eisner Foundation isn’t looking to be an island in a sea of scattered philanthropic efforts. In fact, it encourages other funders to reach out to establish meaningful partnerships and leverage collective influence.
Eisner's wife and three children (and their spouses) are all involved in the foundation. Only family members are on the board, and it's good to know who's interested in which issues. The foundation's website helpfully spells that out here.
The foundation also has a small staff of four: an executive director, director of programs, foundation administrator, and a bookkeeper. The foundation board meets four times a year in March, June, September, and December. The best way to get in touch is by calling the staff at 310-228-6808 or filling out the online contact form.