Milken Family Foundation: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: The Milken Family Foundation is well-known throughout the Los Angeles area because of its Teacher Advancement Program (TAP). It also regularly makes grants to support epilepsy research and Jewish music organizations.

IP TAKE: Although Milken's founder specialized in medical research, most of the foundation's grants to toward education. Grant seekers might want to pitch a short-term goal rather than a long-term commitment.

PROFILE: The Milken Family Foundation was created in 1982 by Lowell and Michael Milken, founders of Heron International, Knowledge Universe Inc., and LeapFrog. It seeks to “discover and advance inventive, effective ways of helping people help themselves and those around them lead productive and satisfying lives.”

Perhaps the best known of Milken's grant programs is the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP). The TAP program incorporates multiple career paths, market-driven compensation, performance-based accountability, ongoing professional growth, and expansion of the supply of high-quality teachers. Educators in Los Angeles should definitely familiarize themselves with Milken because the foundation makes plenty of individual grants every year as well. With more than 2,600 grants of $25,000 to date, the Milken Educator Awards is the most prominent teacher recognition program in the United States. As longtime supporters of Jewish causes, the Milken brothers also give out grants to K-12 educators in schools affiliated with the Builders of Jewish Education (BJE) in the Los Angeles area.

Although Milken prioritizes education in Los Angeles, the foundation does fund organizations in a couple of areas. Milken Archive of Jewish Music was founded in 1990 to reveal the Jewish experience to people of all backgrounds through music and culture. The Milken Archive, which is a virtual museum with musical recordings, photographs, and memorabilia, works with organizations to increase awareness and present relevant material in creative ways.

At this time, the only medical research program that Milken pursues is the Epilepsy Research Awards. Medical clinics and non-profit epilepsy centers receive grants to develop new epilepsy therapies in both academic and commercial settings around the world.

Some of Milken's past grantees include $615,000 to the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, $225,000 to the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles, $158,000 to the Los Angeles Ballet, and $475,000 to Prostate Cancer Foundation in Santa Monica. Although Mike Milken was pegged as "The Man Who Changed Medicine" on the cover of Forbes because of his role in turning the cancer research establishment upside down, very few Milken grants support medical organizations these days. The Milken Family Foundation prioritizes achieving missions much more than foundation longevity. With that said, grant seekers need a better short-term goal than a long-term strategy.

The Milken Family Foundation Educator Award ceremonies always draw a lot of media attention. These awards are given to early and mid-career teachers to applaud their work, with a $25,000 grant and a Hollywood-style gala in Los Angeles. 

Since the foundation does not accept unsolicited grant proposals, grant seekers’ best bet to get funding is to get on the good side of Milken's grantmaking program director, Dahlia Geilman. While Milken has a large board of directors, it has a small staff, so most of the grants come from Geilman. Reach Geilman directly in her Santa Monica office at dgeilman@mff.org or 310-570-4756.

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