Mountains of new wealth have been created in the entertainment industry over recent decades, thanks to globalization and technological change. Today's moguls and stars are exponentially richer than they were in an earlier era, and as a result, the philanthropy now emerging from this sector is much greater than in the past. That said, many of the newer foundations that are giving out money aren't all that advanced in their strategies. They tend to be vehicles for personalized giving as opposed to professionalized grantmaking operations. (Which is fine, by the way.)
The Eisner Foundation is different. Overseen by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner and his wife Jane, as well as their three sons, and run day-to-day by a small staff, this outfit has set a pretty high bar for itself and it's emerged as one of the most sophisticated entertainment industry foundations with living donors.
Last year, we touched on the reasons why Eisner Foundation grantmaking was getting more interesting. This Los Angeles-based funder has been working out a strategy to connect children with the elderly in the city and applying an intergenerational focus to its funding. This isn't a well-trodden area for foundation grantmaking, and Eisner has come to stand out as a leader in intergenerational funding.
In fact, last year the foundation became the first and only funder in the U.S. to exclusively invest in intergenerational community solutions. It gives out around $7 million per year in Los Angeles County for this purpose.
There's much to be said for an intergenerational strategy, and it's actually surprising that more funders aren't thinking this way. There are more older people than ever in an aging America—many with enormous capacity to give back, who also have their own needs for stronger connection and community. Meanwhile, huge numbers of disadvantaged children are struggling and can use any help they can get. The larger backdrop, here, is a decline in public resources for social services—meaning that our society needs to get much better at using whatever free or low-cost human capital we can find to advance the common good.
Lately, like so many funders these days, Eisner has also been bringing a stronger inequality and injustice angle to its grantmaking. This is a big trend that we're noticing everywhere we look, including in Los Angeles—where the Weingart Foundation recently moved equity front and center, as we reported earlier this year.
- The Eisner Foundation Just Got a Lot More Interesting
- From Los Angeles, More Evidence That Inequality Is a Rising Issue for Funders
- The Mary Black Foundation Is Another Funder Thinking More About Equity, in South Carolina
Recently, the Eisner Foundation announced eight new grants totaling $850,756 for the fourth quarter, and these intergenerational programs are aimed at fighting inequality and injustice in Los Angeles. The new grantees are as follows: 826LA, California State University Northridge, EngAGE, Generation to Generation Los Angeles, GOALS, Grandparents as Parents, Jumpstart Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
All of these grants are between $25,000 and $200,000 and have a local focus on funding in low-income communities. The types of causes that Eisner has been supporting lately include mentorship and volunteer programs that connect children and seniors, mental health support, literacy, and bonding through art.
Back in September, Eisner committed $1.4 million across seven grants for the third quarter of 2016. In that round, two groups received $500,000 grants: Encore.org for the Generation to Generation social action campaign that also received funding in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles LGBT Center to build an intergenerational campus in Hollywood.