NET WORTH: $90 million (estimated)
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Producer/Animator, SpongeBob SquarePants; United Plankton Pictures
FUNDING AREAS: Arts & Culture, Education, Health, Human Services
OVERVIEW: Stephen and Karen Hillenburg move their philanthropy through the United Plankton Charitable Trust, which has given under $500,000 annually of late. The Hillenburg couple's philanthropy focuses on Southern California, where the arts and education are among the family's interests.
BACKGROUND: Born in Oklahoma in 1961 and raised in Anaheim, Stephen Hillenburg became fascinated with the ocean as a child and also developed an interest in art. He attended Humboldt State University and received his MFA from CalArts. He worked as a marine biology teacher before going on to create animated television phenomenon "SpongeBob SquarePants."
ARTS AND CULTURE: Hillenburgs, via their foundation, have supported places like Armory Center for the Art, KCRW, LACMA, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Pasadena Art Alliance, and Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS) an organization that advocates for the "creation, presentation, and recognition of experimental art and sound practices in the Greater Los Angeles area." Karen is involved with SASSAS and is interested in promoting the arts by supporting projects and institutions that support creative exploration, innovation, and experimentation.
EDUCATION: Hillenburg has supported his alma mater CalArts, as well as places like Pasadena Conservatory of Music , Polytechnic Schools, Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena, and UCLA Foundation.
HEALTH/HUMAN SERVICES: The Hillenburgs have supported places like Planned Parenthood, National MS Society, Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles, and the IGN Foundation, which supports research into Oligo tumors, a rare type of brain tumor.
OTHER: The family has supported Liberty Hill Foundation, a social justice organization.
LOOKING FORWARD: For now, expect the couple's Southern California focus to continue, though it remains to be seen if more money will move out of United Plankton Chartiable Foundation in the coming years. It's also worth noting that Hillenburg recently announced that he was diagnosed with ALS, which may emerge as a strong interest in this couple's giving in the coming years. He also said that "Anyone who knows me knows that I will continue to work on SpongeBob SquarePants and my other passions for as long as I am able."
The United Plankton Charitable Trust does not provide a clear avenue for getting in touch with the couple, but below is an address
United Plankton Charitable Trust
11400 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste. 590
Los Angeles, CA 90064