Hugh Hefner

NET WORTH: $50 Million, estimated


FUNDING AREAS: Civil Rights & Liberties, Higher Education

OVERVIEW: Established in 1964, the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation aims to "facilitate individual rights in a democratic society." Hefner supports organizations that advocate and defend civil rights and civil liberties with special emphasis on those working on projects related to "First Amendment rights and rational sex and drug policies." UCLA is home to the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program. Hefner also gave a $2 million gift to USC's film school last decade. Hefner also awards the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards. Typical grants range between $5,000 and $10,000 and the foundation accepts LOIs.

BACKGROUND: Hugh Hefner was born in Chicago in 1926. After graduating from high school, Hefner joined the army. He later earned a degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and held various writing jobs, including as a promotion copywriter at Esquire. Hefner then started his own venture, Playboy. The first undated issue of featured Marilyn Monroe from her calendar shoot. Today, Playboy Enterprises is a major distributor of entertainment through films, magazines, adult cable television networks, radio and the Internet.


CIVIL RIGHTS & CIVIL LIBERTIES: The Hugh M. Hefner Foundation is guided by the Playboy philosophy, which has articulated the social goals of his company. One of Hefner's ideas is that "progress necessarily requires the exchange of outdated ideas for new and better ones. By keeping open all lines of communication in our culture, every new idea—no matter how seemingly perverse, improper or peculiar—has its opportunity to be considered, to be challenged, and ultimately to be accepted or rejected by society as a whole or by some small part of it."

The foundation's First Amendment program "supports organizations on the vanguard of the debate about First Amendment rights." Grantees have included Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonprofit that "focuses on civil liberties in academia in the United States," Student Press Law Center, People for the American Way, and ACLU Foundation of Southern California. 

Hefner's Rational Sex and Drug and Policy program, meanwhile, aims to "advance a society where drug policies are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights, which promotes the sovereignty of individuals over their minds and bodies." Recent grantees include Drug Policy Alliance and Planned Parenthood.

The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University, Children of the Night, "a nonprofit organization established in 1979 and dedicated to rescuing America’s children from the ravages of prostitution," and National Runaway Safeline, have also been funded.

Finally, Hefner's Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards honor individuals who have made "significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans."

HIGHER EDUCATION: Hefner has supported Brandeis University, where Hefner's daughter Christie graduated. In 2006, Hefner made a $1 million donation to the UCLA Film & Television Archive for public screenings of American cinema, establishing the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program, and in 2007, he made a $2 million dollar donation to the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

LOOKING FORWARD: Expect Hefner to stay laser-focused on his established interest areas.