Otis Booth Foundation: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: The Otis Booth Foundation frequently switches its highest priority among the arts, higher education, and human services. Booth grants tend to be large — well into the million-dollar range.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, arts, hospitals, and youth organizations

IP TAKE: Since Otis Booth's death, his son-in-law has taken the philanthropic reins and spread the wealth around various program areas in Los Angeles. Grants are large, well-publicized, and difficult to get.

PROFILE:  It seems that most philanthropic foundations favor one particular program area, be it art, science, education, or another cause. The Otis Booth Foundation, however, switches up its pet program focus to accommodate a wide range of nonprofits in the Los Angeles area. The foundation favored human services arts, and higher education in recent years. But no matter which area the foundation's funds are flowing to, you can bet that they're staying in Los Angeles and making headlines.

The Otis Booth Foundation awarded an unprecedented and highly publicized grant of $13 million to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The trustees at the museum were nearly speechless because this grant was the largest private gift it had ever received in its 100-year history. The Otis Booth Pavilion prominently showcases the museum's 63-foot-long fin whale via pedestrian bridge. Some of Booth's other major grants around the city have included $4.53 million to the Children's Institute, $2.66 million to John Thomas Dye School, $2.25 million to Los Angeles ICEF Public Schools, and $1 million to KIPP LA Schools. The foundation also made headlines with a $5 million grant to the University of Southern California's athletic services programs. Clearly, the Booth Foundation has the means to give big and give often.

In a recent year, the foundation reported over $204 million in assets and more than $9.6 million in total giving. Assets are up and giving is a bit down from previous years.

The foundation has been around since 1967, after investment mogul Otis Booth secured his fortune at the Los Angeles Times and Berkshire Hathaway. Booth passed away from complications of Lou Gehrig's disease in his Los Angeles home in 2008. So who's been dolling out the money since then? Even though Booth grants make big news, its grantmaking procedures remain somewhat of a mystery to non-profit organizations in the area. Palmer Murray is running the show these days and serving as spokesman for all that good press. Murray has been married to Booth's daughter, Stephanie, since the early 1990s. He tends to find and appoint full-time staff coordinators like Matt Barkley, who's running the USC athletic program, to oversee program implementation from the ground up.

Although almost all of Booth's grants go toward education and arts programs, some funds seep into agriculture programs. Booth was a rancher-on-the-side and always supported agricultural leadership initiatives around the world.

The Booth Foundation doesn't have a website, and it won't consider your unsolicited grant proposal if it's never heard from you before. Murray stays true to his father-in-law's wishes and only contributes funds to pre-selected organizations, but most of them are in Los Angeles. Although the grants mentioned above are exceptionally large, grants range between $1,000 and $5 million. The foundation usually gives out 80 to 100 grants per year, so you do the math. You can contact the foundation directly at 310-471-2575.

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