The Eisner Foundation Just Got a Lot More Interesting

Supporting causes for the young and old is nothing new in Los Angeles, but one local foundation has taken age-based grantmaking to a whole new level.

The Eisner Foundation, founded in 1996 by Michael and Jane Eisner, always intended for their grantmaking to benefit children. However, the foundation’s new strategy is aimed at connecting children with the elderly in and around Los Angeles.  

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“By applying an intergenerational lens to our funding, we see an opportunity to generate even more transformative results from our investments,” said the foundation's CEO, Trent Stamp, in a press release. “We believe that programs combining the strengths of each age group will have a multiplying effect—creating longer-lasting, positive change in our communities.”

With an annual commitment of about $8 million, the Eisner Foundation is drawing on the inspiration of several of its grantees that incorporated intergenerational programming. While kids are looking for mentors, the elderly want companionship. And as the elderly need assistance, kids are looking for purpose and meaning in life. There’s a lot of mutually beneficial potential herefor literacy, art, social services, and health.

In terms of philanthropic giving, Eisner’s intergenerational approach is defined by the connection of multiple generations for a communal benefit. The foundation hopes to strengthen nonprofits that already connect multiple generations and also scale national intergenerational programs to put to use at home in Los Angeles.

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One example of this type of support is the $100,000 grant to Jumpstart for Young Children of Southern California, which will provide transportation for senior citizens who work with low-income preschool students. We expect to see Eisner’s grantmaking flow to program support, leadership and staffing support, advocacy, and research. Target populations of Eisner’s intergenerational grantmaking strategy will likely include children in foster care, teens at risk of dropping out of school, low-income senior citizens, and the isolated elderly.

"We’re not looking for programs where children and seniors are being served side by side," explained Stamp. "We’re looking for programs where one resource is serving the other resource, and they both benefit in the long term."

Although in theory, intergenerational grantmaking makes a lot of sense, it’s pretty uncharted territory when it comes to foundation grantmaking. Eisner has been described as the new leader in this field, and plenty of other local and national funders will be watching to see how it all plays out.

But honestly, Eisner has been preparing for this grantmaking shift for a while now. It established the Eisner Prize back in 2011 to reward nonprofits that take a multi-generation approach to their work.  But unlike most of the foundation's grantmaking, this is a national prize, and the 2014 winners were based in Portland, Oregon and Cleveland, Ohio.

Foundation president Jane Eisner described the foundation’s intergenerational program as “broad,” so that it encourages innovation without strict rules and limitations. Check out the foundation’s How to Apply page to learn more about the specific criteria, evaluation, and follow-up process.