Martha Karsh, Karsh Family Foundation

TITLE: Trustee

FUNDING AREAS: Education, human services, Jewish concerns

CONTACT: (213) 830-6402

IP TAKE: Karsh and her husband, Bruce, award grants to universities that their family is already affiliated with, as well as to Jewish causes in Southern California. From law to architecture and religion, Karsh is a woman of many interests. However, you're best off pitching an education proposal with Jewish overtones if you aren't a big-name university.

PROFILE: Martha Karsh is much more than just another wealthy hedge fund tycoon's wife. She's practiced law, been actively involved in nonprofit work, and run a design and construction company. . . all while raising three children.

Martha graduated from the University of Virginia and went to Virginia Law School after that. She practiced as an attorney between 1981 and 1995 as a business litigator and counseling attorney. Even while deeply immersed in her legal career, she began to gravitate towards the nonprofit sector. She began lecturing at UCLA and volunteering with the Los Angeles County Counsel's Children's Services Division, where she was named Volunteer of the Year in 1987.

She and her husband, Bruce, started their own philanthropic foundation in 1988 to support education causes in the Los Angeles area. Most of Martha's grantmaking focus has been on large universities, like Duke, Brown, Virginia Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania. The couple has also widely supported the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) for public charter schools and Teach for America. Most Karsh grants are applied towards scholarships and financial aid for college.

After the couple announced a $2.5 million charter school partnership grant for KIPP graduates who attend the University of Pennsylvania, Martha commented, “This is set up to try to provide for their full financial needs.” And after donating $50 million for a permanent endowment at Duke University, her husband Bruce commented that he and Martha believe financial aid to be a crucial investment in future professionals and a “genuine game changer.” He went on to explain that, “Martha and I believe strongly that motivated, talented students-- whether from underserved communities in the U.S or from around the globe—should be able to attend a great university like Duke, which can nurture their talent and help them reach their potential.”

The Karsh couple's allegiances lie where their degrees do, and where their children have pursued their educations as well. Traditionally, Martha hasn't allowed her grantmaking priorities to stray far from the affiliations that her and her family have been building up over the years. However, her personal charitable involvement has been much broader. She has served on the boards of several small, local nonprofits including Mother's Club, Foothill Family Service, Brentwood School, Painted Turtle Camp, and the University of Pennsylvania Parent Leadership Committee.

Karsh has also been an outspoken advocate for Jewish causes and charities in her Beverly Hills community. She and her husband are members of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple and regularly support Jewish nonprofits in the area. Karsh serves on the board of Temple Beth David as well. Jewish organizations are less funded less frequently than universities, but there are still some good opportunities here.

Karsh's most recent venture is an architecture design and development firm, Clark & Karsh, that puts her architecture, engineering, interior design, and landscaping skills to the test. She's clearly not a one-dimensional woman, or one who sits back and lets her husband have all of the success and recognition. She's a well-rounded professional, who likes to relax by reading, writing, and going on long hikes. Higher education is the cornerstone of the Karsh Family Foundation, but Los Angeles nonprofits still have a chance to tap into these ancillary interests and receive funding.