Wasserman Foundation: Los Angeles Grants

OVERVIEW: The Wasserman Foundation awards around 100-150 grants per year that range between $500 and $5 million. The program focus areas are pretty broad, and organizations working to improve art, education, and health in the Los Angeles area are all considered for grants.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, arts, and health

IP TAKE: The Wasserman Foundation funds many types of organizations in Los Angeles. There's also a global program competing for Wasserman funds. Hollywood insider Casey Wasserman runs the show but doesn't show his cards.                              

PROFILE: While some philanthropic foundations are run by old guys in pressed suits who curse at computers, the Wasserman Foundation has embraced the technological age with Twitter, Tumbler, Pintrest, and Flickr accounts. Casey Wasserman, president and CEO of the foundation and heir to one of Hollywood's most illustrious names, has made headlines by being one of Bill Clinton's best friends. In the Hollywood Reporter, Clinton even described him as "a perfect example of the new generation of philanthropists — one with an expansive worldview, a strong understanding of the power of technology as a tool for giving and a bias for action."

But the Wasserman Foundation began long before these kinds of political friendships were formed. Lew and Edie Wasserman created the foundation in 1952 to put the couple's wealth from Lew's leadership at Music Corporation of America (MCA)/Universal Studios to use for the public good. Lew was a talent agent, studio executive, and MCA manager. While running MCA, he dominated Hollywood and represented stars like Bette Davis and Ronald Reagan. Before Lew's grandson, Casey, squeezed philanthropy onto his resume, he made a name for himself as an entertainment executive, sports agent executive, and owner of the Los Angeles Avengers arena football team.

Like its founders, the Wasserman Foundation loves to be in the spotlight. The Wasserman Foundation awards around 100-150 grants per year that range between $500 and $5 million. The program focus areas are pretty broad, and organizations working to improve art, education, and health in the Los Angeles area are all considered for grants. Some of the foundation's past grants included $700,000 to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and $500,000 to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

In addition to making the yearly grants, Casey has served on the board of the Clinton Foundation, overseen the opening of the $116 million Edie and Lew Wasserman medical building at UCLA, and served on the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Wasserman also funds programs for the Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles Police and scholarship programs at six universities.

Unlike some foundations in the city, Wasserman does provide support for capital campaigns, endowments, and research projects. Contrary to what you might think, though, Wasserman won't fund your independent film project. Wasserman grantmaking has been trending towards technological solutions for social and educational problems. For example, the foundation has shown support for new educational video games and iPads for students.

The global initiatives have been tied to the Clinton Foundation, IDEO.org, charity:water, and Human Rights Watch. 

Wasserman doesn't accept unsolicited proposals for funding. Although the foundation has an impressive website, it doesn't contain any information about how to apply for a grant or push a letter of inquiry through the right channels. Unsolicited requests for funding are not accepted. Your best bet to get in contact with the foundation is by phone at 310-407-0200 or fax at 310-407-0300.

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