NET WORTH: Unknown
SOURCE OF WEALTH: GeoCities, tech investments
FUNDING AREAS: LGBT causes, Arts, Los Angeles Community, Animal Language Research, Gun Violence Prevention, Leadership, Health
OVERVIEW: David Bohnett's LGBT advocacy headlines his philanthropy. He has given more than $21 million in grants through the David Bohnett Foundation's LGBT Community program over the years. Apart from LGBT causes, Bohnett is a funder of the Los Angeles community, with a significant interest in the arts. Bohnett has also supported animal language research, gun violence prevention, and has funded leadership programs at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, as well as several other schools.
BACKGROUND: David Bohnett grew up in suburban Chicago and took an interest in business at an early age. In high school, he became fascinated by computers, and attended the University of Southern California, where he received a B.S. in business administration and later received a finance degree from the University of Michigan. He started his career as a staff consultant with Accenture (then Anderson Consulting) in Los Angeles. He also became involved with GLAAD and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, and came out to his parents. In 1994, Bohnett developed GeoCities.com with John Reznerr. Yahoo! purchased GeoCities in 1999, and Bohnett reportedly netted about $300 million from the sale. In the late 1990s, Bohnett founded Baroda Ventures, a Los Angeles-based venture capital firm.
LGBT CAUSES: Bohnett is among the few top individual donors who have helped win major victories on LGBT rights, particularly marriage equality, as we've reported here. The mission of the foundation's LGBT Community program is to "fund and advocate in support of groups and organizations that strive to provide equal rights and protection for all LGBT people." The foundation has given more than $21.7 million in grants through this program over the years to beneficiaries including the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute, GLAAD, the Lambda Legal Defense Education Fund, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Through the foundation's Cybercenters Program, meanwhile, Bohnett has given close to $4 million toward various community centers and college outfits that support the LGBT community. Grantees have included the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the Milwaukee Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center.
LOS ANGELES COMMUNITY AND THE ARTS: The Bohnett Foundation also has a program called Fund for Los Angeles which has given away nearly $70 million over the years. While some of these efforts intersect at times with Bohnett's support for LGBT rights, there is plenty of money going to other areas as well.
One major interest is the arts. The story here, as we have written, is that when Bohnett arrived in LA as a college freshman at USC, he started attending concerts at the LA Philharmonic. He also discovered LACMA. These days, Bohnett is a vice chair of Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, chairman of the executive committee of the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and LACMA. Bohnett pledged $20 million toward the LA Philharmonic. Other big winners include LACMA, MoCA, and the Museum of Neon. Apart from art, Bohnett also supports places like the Los Angeles Parks Association, Zocolo Public Square, the Transit Coalition, and other community groups. He has supported UCLA, and his alma mater USC, the recent recipient of a $15 million gift for a college residence which will focus on social justice and community service.
GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Bohnett's mission in this area could not be more direct. The foundation's Gun Violence Prevention program seeks to "ending the scourge of gun violence through research, advocacy and community empowerment." Grantees have included Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Campaign to Unload.
ANIMAL LANGUAGE RESEARCH: Bohnett also has an interest in animal language research, funding organizations such as the Center For Great Apes, and Friends of Washoe. In fact, Bohnett has bankrolled the David Bohnett Chimpanzee Caregiver position at Friends of Washoe.
LEADERSHIP: Bohnett has bankrolled several leadership programs and initiatives at colleges and universities including the David Bohnett Fellowship Program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, and the David Bohnett Leadership Fellows program at Harvard Kennedy School, which is in partnership with the Gay & Lesbian Leadership Institute.
HEALTH: Bohnett made $1 million in grants to amfAR's 2014/2015 Countdown for a Cure drive for an end to AIDS by 2020.
LOOKING FORWARD: Bohnett's philanthropy has really expanded over the years and serves as a good example of how some funders pursue other interests once they have been at it for a while.