TITLE: Executive Director
FUNDING AREAS: Healthcare, AIDS and HIV services, arts, Jewish community funding, and civil liberties
CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)
IP TAKE: Dishman has been Geffen's philanthropic point guy for years; now he's starting to give away the really big money.
PROFILE: A few major gifts from David Geffen and his philanthropic foundation have been stealing headlines in recent years. These gifts include a $100 million scholarship fund at the University of California, Los Angeles and a $25 million gift to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
But don't let that deceive. Until December 2012, when UCLA announced the scholarship donation, The David Geffen Foundation had been operating quietly for years in Los Angeles, writing mostly modest checks for a wide variety of non-profit organizations. The foundation awards close to $5 million in grants annually. That could be good news for L.A. nonprofits, particularly those looking for smaller, unrestricted grants, as there are plenty of checks going out to a wide variety of organizations.
As the foundation's executive director, Dallas Dishman oversees all aspects Geffen's domestic grantmaking in five core areas. Dishman has been involved with the foundation for more than 12 years, and before that he worked as the art director at Southern California Studies Center (an urban and regional think tank based at University of Southern California) and the program department intern at Conrad Hilton Foundation, another major L.A. funder.
Dishman is highly educated. He received his bachelor's degree in geography in Indiana, then made his way to his new L.A. home and garnered his PhD in medical geography and social theory from University of Southern California. He's recently started paying some of that education forward, as adjunct faculty at Woodbury University in their Organizational Leadership orgram. Dishman also remains active in cultural programming, particularly by serving as the Arts and Cultural Affairs Commissioner for the city of West Hollywood.
In terms of his work with Geffen, the majority of The David Geffen Foundation's recent charitable contributions went to established organizations, with grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, with a couple that broke that seal, including the Los Angeles County Art Museum receiving $1.5 million and the Bridge School receiving $1 million.
Arts grants account for a sizable portion of the foundation's contributions, and with his position in West Hollywood Dishman certainly is plugged into the L.A. art scene. Of course, the $25 million gift to the Academy, which will fund a proposed film museum, was a major arts grant for the foundation. But Dishman also signed grants for $13,333 to the American Film Institute and $5,000 to the Songs for Kids Foundation.
The Songs for Kids Foundation is particularly interesting because the organization was just four years old at the time. This grant could show Dishman's willingness to work with newer organizations focused on the foundation's priority areas.
Funding for AIDS/HIV also plays a major part in Geffen's grantmaking strategy. The Los Angeles County AIDS Project and the Elton John AIDS Foundation both took in $50,000 grants, as Geffen has long been a supporter of AIDS and HIV prevention, treatment, and awareness programs.
But those are just a few clues about Geffen's grantmaking, and the foundation can be somewhat impregnable for fundraisers. It doesn't have published grant guidelines readily available, nor does the foundation have a web presence, so it's not entirely clear how Dishman makes grant decisions for the foundation. One specific we do know: The foundation doesn't give to individuals or media projects.
Other than that, your best bet is to get in contact with the foundation for more specifics on submitting a proposal. Geffen has said in the past that the majority of his future earnings will go to philanthropy, so L.A. fundraisers may be hearing more of Dishman's name in the near future.