We’ve all heard tragic stories about lottery winner disasters, where getting rich turned into a nightmare of family fights, lawsuits, poor investments, and losing it all within a matter of years. But lottery winners can also keep cool and come out on top, doing positive things with that extra cash—such as in the case of Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros.
The Cisneros couple won the California Mega Millions Lottery and started their own family foundation in 2010. Since then, the former Frito-Lay manager and broadcast journalist have made a name for themselves in the world of Southern California philanthropy, especially in a few niche areas of focus. Gilbert also won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, serving the state’s 39th congressional district.
By far, the biggest cause for the Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros Foundation is Latino education. This is a funder that supports policy and awareness about Latino student issues and aims to boost the success of Latino students. Many low-income Latino students who are high academic achievers are attending schools for which they are overqualified, and the Cisneros couple wants to empower these students to do better. The foundation provides scholarship opportunities for students who attend El Rancho High School in the city of Pico Rivera and who are enrolled at George Washington University.
In addition to Latino education, the Cisneros Foundation also prioritizes the needs of U.S. veterans. Gilbert Cisneros is a U.S. Navy veteran himself, and the couple has given veteran-focused funds to Bob Hope USO at LAX, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Navy Supply Corps Foundation. Locally, Gilbert Cisneros supports the GI Bill Yellow Ribbon Program at local schools.
The Founders’ Alma Maters
In the foundation’s earliest days, the Cisneroses directed a sizable portion of grantmaking to their alma maters. Their dedication translated into grants at the University of Southern California and George Washington University. But in more recent times, the foundation has broadened its grantmaking strategy and given to many other organizations, too. Lately, the foundation has been giving out a little under $1 million annually, and recent grants have reached the $100,000 mark.
Southern California Communities
The Cisneros Foundation prefers to keep its money close to home. Jacki Cisneros grew up in Pico Rivera, California, and her grandfather was once the mayor there. A big portion of their grantmaking centers on helping Pico Rivera students obtain college degrees. Jacki Cisneros also has personal connections to Yorba Linda, California. Today, the foundation is headquartered on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.