Karsh Family Foundation: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: The Karsh Family Foundation is all about education, from preschool all the way through graduate school. The most common grantees are public schools, top-notch universities, and after-school programs for underprivileged youth.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, at all levels

IP TAKE: The Karsh Family Foundation doesn't accept proposals and contributes only to pre-selected organizations. One way to possibly get in touch with Martha Karsh is through her current business, Clark and Karsh.

PROFILE: If you're working in the education industry, you'd better get to know the Karsh family. The power couple, Martha and Bruce Karsh, run their own foundation and love giving out financial aid to the top universities in the United States. The foundation, established by Martha in 1997, holds more than $134 million in assets and gives out about $17 million of that per year. Both grantmaking and assets are up from recent years in the pas. The bad news is that you're probably going to have to know somebody who knows somebody to catch the foundation's attention. Karsh doesn't seem to accept proposals and contributes only to pre-selected organizations.

Both graduates of Virginia Law School, Bruce boosted his net worth to around $1.9 billion after success in the investment and real estate industry. Bruce and four of his colleagues started Oaktree Capital Management in 1995, and he settled into a firm and portfolio manager role. But he didn't stop there. Bruce also became director of Armstrong Wood Products, LBI media, and Charter Communications. Meanwhile, Martha practiced law, raised three children, and got involved in the design and construction non-profit sector. While running the foundation, she's turned her professional interests toward landscape and interior design, developing residential construction projects in Los Angeles through the architectural firm she started, Clark & Karsh.

Although education is clearly the focus of the Karshs' grantmaking, they also consider giving to human services, Jewish agencies, and synagogues. Grants made in those areas are much less publicized and have a few zeros behind the dollar signs. Karsh grants have ranged from $1,000 to $1 million. The foundation likes finding organizations it can work with and building long-term relationships. Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) LA Schools, a regional network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools operating in east and south Los Angeles, has been receiving more than $1 million of Karsh funds each year. KIPP has been able to fund college-prep programs for elementary and middle school students with these general operating support grants that roll in on a regular basis. Inner-City Education Foundation (ICEF) Public Schools also have been pulling in about $50,000 each year for general operating support thanks to Karsh.

But Marsha, who handles most of the foundation's philanthropic dealings in the family, doesn't just toss money around. She's been an active member of an uncommon number of boards and committees, including the University of Virginia Law School Foundation, Common Sense Media, Los Angeles Parks Foundation, KIPP LA, Brentwood School, Mother's Club, and the Temple Beth David.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, the Karsh Family Foundation doesn't have a website or any published guidelines about how to apply for a grant. You can often find the couple in the headlines, thanks to Bruce's $56 million purchase of the Ritz Carlton and his board involvement with the NBA. However, it's much more difficult to reach the couple in person, and they seem to like it that way. One way to get in touch with Martha is through her current business, Clark & Karsh, at email@clark-karsh.com. Since both major universities and local public school systems have been raking in Karsh funds in large amounts for general use, rather than for specifically tailored programs, you can remain a little broad in your initial approach.


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