FUNDING AREAS: AIDS treatment and prevention, education, hunger, health care deficiencies, animal welfare, arts enrichment, conservation
IP TAKE: Lurie likes to find her own non-profit organizations to help, and doesn't respond well to unsolicited LOIs.
PROFILE: "Philanthropy doesn't mean just giving money. According to the dictionary, it means loving one's fellow man," major philanthropist Ann Lurie has said. But Lurie doesn't base her grantmaking strategy only on the dictionary. Before starting a family, she worked in public health and pediatric intensive care nursing in rural Florida and also at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Since the death of her real estate magnate husband, Robert Lurie, in 1990, her charitable contributions have been focused on medical treatment (including the creation of the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in 2007), the University of Michigan (Robert's alma mater), AIDS treatment and prevention (especially in Africa), as well as a host of other social services and arts programs that have inspired her. Ten million of Ann and Robert H. Lurie Foundation funds were also donated towards the Lurie Garden at Chicago's Millennium Park.
The wealthy couple incorporated the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Foundation in 1986 and began making contributions both individually and through the foundation. Their longtime support of the University of Michigan Ann Arbor includes endowing the Robert H. Lurie Engineering Center, Lurie Tower, and Biomedical Engineering and Nanofabrication facilities.
Ann Lurie has also provided funding for several African clinics that provided HIV/AIDS care, immunizations, infectious disease control, and sanitation to more than 100,000 seminomadic pastoralists in southeastern Kenya. After providing $8 million per year as the sole funder, the foundation called it quits in 2012. Her official statement was that Kenyans should be fine now because local government institutions had improved and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program could provide HIV/AIDS medications.
Other less-publicized health grants from the foundation include the Gilda's Club cancer support program, Infant Welfare Society's lead poisoning prevention program, and food bank capital for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Lurie hand-selects well-established organizations with proven track records and does not welcome unsolicited proposals. "I want to go out there and look for a soup kitchen. I don't want eighty soup kitchens coming to me," she said in a Forbes interview. She went on to explain, "I focus on organizations that have a proven ability to do well in their field—not to transform the mediocre but to help a few agencies improve their services."
In fact, the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Foundation doesn't provide any details to the public on how to apply for a grant or its grantmaking guidelines, or offer any clues on how to get in the Lurie inner circle. Lurie has a hands-on approach to her giving, and she stays true to the causes that her late husband would have supported. She also expects to give away Robert's entire fortune in her lifetime. Getting buddy-buddy with Ann Lurie seems like a challenge, but if you've got an in, your nonprofit could be rolling in the dough.