David C. Copley Foundation 101: What San Diego Grantseekers Need to Know



While some philanthropic foundations always seem to remain steadfast in how they’re run, others go through periodic transitions, which is when our ears perk up. This is the situation with the David C. Copley Foundation, which has undergone some significant changes in recent years and built up its assets to emerge as a major player on the San Diego funding scene.

Here’s what SoCal nonprofits should know about the San Diego-based David C. Copley Foundation.

Copley Family Background

Originally known as the Helen K. and James S. Copley Foundation, this private family funder dates back to 1953, thanks to the success of Copley Press. The Copley family owned newspapers in California, Illinois, and Ohio, and David was the son of Helen and James. Tragically, David died in a car accident in 2012 at the age of 60. This foundation was the sole beneficiary of his estate, and is now led by four independent directors.

Seven Topics of Interest

The first thing to know about this foundation is that it has seven well-defined topics of interest: human services, military and military veterans, youth development, medical and medical research, education, arts and culture, and animal welfare. Within these seven categories, the foundation looks to support programs and services that aid underserved populations.

Spotlight on San Diego

The David C. Copley Foundation is also very locally focused in its grantmaking, pretty much sticking exclusively to the San Diego area. This is why you’ll notice a significant number of buildings around town that bear the Copley family name. A few examples include Copley Symphony Hall, the Copley-Price Family YMCA, Helen K. Copley Youth Center, Copley Tower at Scripps La Jolla, and the David C. Copley Stage at the San Diego Public Library Foundation. Other recent interests of this local funder include monitoring the sea level rise in Imperial Beach, providing toys to children of military families, and paying for community health and recreation facilities. Only rarely will the foundation directors consider programs outside of San Diego County.

Preliminary Grant Proposals

According to guidelines established by the David C. Copley Foundation officers and directors, the foundation accepts unsolicited preliminary grant proposals from local nonprofits. There are no set deadlines for these submissions, but they should be sent in early enough for the foundation to consider them and for nonprofits to subsequently submit a complete grant proposal by January 15 or July 15. The entire application process is conducted online, and the funder notifies applicants in writing about final decisions. In a recent year, the foundation had over $94 million in total assets and awarded over $5 million in grants and contributions.

Gain more insights about this SoCal funder in IP’s full profile of the David C. Copley Foundation.

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