David Bohnett

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 lived as an openly gay man for decades, including serving as a hotline counselor in the 1970s while in graduate school at University of Michigan, and being involved with GLAAD. On the philanthropic end, he has given more than $18 million in grants through the David Bohnett Foundation's LGBT Community program over the years. Bohnett also supports LGBT outfits through its Cybercenters program, which has developed a network of more than 60 community centers. Apart from LGBT causes, Bohnett is a funder of the Los Angeles community, with a huge interest in the arts. He's a director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and LACMA. Bohnett has also supported animal language research, gun violence prevention, and has bankrolled leadership programs at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, as well as several other schools. As of 2015, the David Bohnett Foundation has donated over $100 million to these causes.

BACKGROUND: 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.

 

ISSUES:

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 $20 million in grants through this program over the years to beneficiaries including the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute (nearly $2 million), GLAAD (more than $1 million), the Lambda Legal Defense Education Fund (close to $500,000), and the Los Angeles LGBT Center (more than $2.5 million). 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. Recent grants have gone to 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 $50 million over the years. While some of these efforts intersect at times with Bohnett's support for LGBT rights, there's plenty of money going to other areas as well.

One major interest is the arts. The story here, as we've 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 director at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, chairman of the board 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 recently pledged $20 million toward the LA Philharmonic and has given the outfit around $24 million to date. More than $10 million has gone to LACMA, around $600,000 has gone to MoCA, and more than $100,000 has gone to the Museum of Neon. Apart from art, Bohnett also supports 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. 

Bohnett recently gave $15 million to the USC Village at the University of Southern California to fund the David C. Bohnett Residential College, which will focus on social justice and community service

GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Bohnett's mission in this area couldn't be more direct. The foundation's Gun Violence Prevention program is dedicated to "ending the scourge of gun violence through research, advocacy and community empowerment." Recent grants have gone to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Campaign to Unload. Just under $4 million in grants has moved through this program over the years.

ANIMAL LANGUAGE RESEARCH: Bohnett also has an interest in animal language research, funding outfits 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: As a trustee of amfAR--the foundation for AIDS' research--Bohnett gave $1 million 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, serving as a good example of how some funders pursue other interests once they've been at it for a while.

LINKS: