Fred Eychaner, Alphawood Foundation

TITLE: President

FUNDING AREAS: Gay rights, domestic violence, AIDS/HIV research and treatment, environment, arts and art education, and architecture preservation

CONTACT: info@alphawoodfoundation.org, 773-477-8984

IP TAKE: Eychaner is a reclusive millionaire with a passion for politics and gay rights. Despite his journalistic background, he doesn't fund media causes or like media attention.

PROFILE: Due to his success as president and CEO of Chicago-based Newsweb Corp., Fred Eychaner started the Alphawood Foundation, and through it he has quietly given millions of dollars to Democratic candidate campaigns, gay rights advocacy groups, and arts organizations. Eychaner wanted to call his philanthropy foundation "Anonymous," until he discovered that the name was already taken. So he settled on "Alphawood" instead. Although rarely interviewed or photographed, the reclusive millionaire philanthropist has gotten a great deal of media attention for being the fourth-largest financial backer of the 2012 presidential election. 

As a longtime democratic donor, he's dined with everyone from Bill Clinton to Michael Madigan and Barack Obama, and he ranks fifth nationally as a lifetime donor to the Democratic National Committee.

But Eychaner wasn't always sipping tea with the political elite. He was raised as the oldest of four children in rural DeKalb, Illinois, by Republican, Methodist parents. After working as a sportswriter for small, local newspapers, he helped pay his way through Northwestern University's School of Journalism as an announcer for a DeKalb radio station.

"Living in Chicago as a country boy, basically, and going to college made a very big impact on me," he said in a Chicago Tribune interview, noting the extremes of wealth and poverty that he has seen. He moved on to conquer the television market, the foreign language market, and the alternative lifestyle market in various forms of media. He's been known to take public transportation around Chicago and drive a Ford Escort because "you can get into any parking space and the mileage is great," he says.

His company, Newsweb Corp., has specialized in printing community, college, and ethnic newspapers since its inception in 1971. In addition to owning several radio stations in Chicago and a television station in Colorado, the company works with clients in event planning, the fine arts, and public relations. In a series of trades and agreements, Eychaner sold his Chicago-based television station to Fox Television in 2003.

Eychaner has been able to maintain much more anonymity in his philanthropy than in his politics, and aside from his multimillion-dollar home in Chicago's prestigious Lincoln Park neighborhood, Eychaner lives a private and relatively-speaking frugal personal life. He is openly gay and regularly provides grants to non-profit organizations focused on gay rights, domestic violence, AIDS/HIV research and treatment, the environment, and the arts. Organizations that specialize in arts education for children, institutional advocacy for social change, and architecture preservation also get on Eychaner's radar.

Eychaner likes his independence and doesn't want an entourage. He turns down offers to inscribe his name on buildings he has donated to, refuses to let reporters into his home or office, and feels burdened by the solicitation that accompanies his wealth. Therefore, it's probably not in your best interest to go knocking on his door for grant money. Alphawood won't accept grant proposals from any organizations it hasn't already funded in the past. First-time grants are made by invitation only. However, for clarification on Alphawood's acceptance guidelines and to get your foot in the door, you should contact the foundation directly at info@alphawoodfoundation.org.

Almost all of his philanthropic giving goes to Illinois-based organizations for general operating support. Although Alphawood's grants range up to $150,000, most grants are below $50,000 and first-time grants average $3,000. Some recent Alphawood grants include $120,000 to Northwest Indiana Public Broadcasting, $100,000 to Free Speech TV, and $20,000 to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

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