Specialty Family Foundation: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: The Santa-Monica-based Specialty Family Foundation has two big grantmaking goals: inner city K-8 Catholic education and alcoholism and substance abuse treatment. The foundation has around $70 million in assets, and both programs have a Los Angeles focus.

FUNDING AREAS: Inner city education, Catholic education, alcoholism and substance abuse treatment, women and children causes

IP TAKE: Unfortunately for grantseekers, the Specialty Family Foundation does not publicize any of its grant application procedures. Grants are made by invitation only. Although Catholic schools and substance abuse are the top priorities, the foundation has expressed an interest in exploring programs that address homelessness and food security.

PROFILE: The Santa Monica-based Specialty Family Foundation is all about alleviating the conditions that lead to persistent poverty. Overall foundation grantmaking is focused on expanding education in low-income communities and helping residents who struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse. Within those parameters, the Specialty Foundation favors inner-city Catholic schools and treatment facilities that impact women and children.

The foundation’s website leaves a lot to be desired for grantseekers, but with a little digging we’ve learned that the Specialty Family Foundation has a strong commitment to the city of Los Angeles. The Specialty Family Foundation has been referred to as the “new kid on the block” in Los Angeles philanthropy. Dr. Jim Peter, a businessman and research doctor who frequently showered inner-city schools with monetary gifts, decided to invest a large sum of money into this foundation.  Jim and his wife, Joan, established the foundation in 2008.

Since Jim passed away, his eldest daughter, Deb Estes, has served as President and Chairman of the foundation. The main purpose of this family foundation is to support needy individuals and communities in the Los Angeles area, especially relating to K-8 Catholic schools in Los Angeles County.

Many of these schools are under tremendous financial pressure and at serious risk of shutting down. The Specialty Family Foundation created the Catholic School Consortium, which is a program that benefits 21 inner-city schools in Los Angeles. Through this program, Specialty helps fund the leadership position of director of marketing and development. Not only have these local schools seen average enrollment gains of more than 13 percent, but they’ve also been able to use millions of dollars in support for their missions.

As another goal, Specialty channels charitable giving to nonprofits that help Los Angeles residents overcome alcohol and substance abuse problems. In recent years, the foundation has expressed an interest in also exploring programs that address homelessness and food security. Poverty and community intervention are also of interest to this funder. 

The Specialty Family Foundation has an estimated $70 million assets and has been described as having an “aggressive spending policy.” The foundation made headlines for its $25,000 grant to support Homeboy Industries, which helps former gang members and previously incarcerated individuals learn job skills and become productive community members.

Joe Womac, a Seattle University School of Law graduate, has been Specialty’s Executive Director since February 2013. He comes from the Fulcrum Foundation, a Seattle-focused Catholic education funder, where he served as Executive Director for eight years. Before that, he worked as a Catholic high school teacher.

“I have directly tied my vocational decisions to my faith,” Womac told Catholic People Magazine. “It always begins there.”

Steve Bumbaugh, who served as the foundation’s former executive director, previously worked as a Program Officer for the David and Lucille Packard Foundation’s Organizational Effectiveness Program and the California Endowment.

Unfortunately for grantseekers, the Specialty Family Foundation does not publicize any of its grant application procedures. Unsolicited inquiries are not welcome. General inquiries can be directed to the foundation staff at 310-899-9700 or by email at info@specialtyfamilyfoundation.org.


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