John L. Santikos Left $605 Million to the San Antonio Area Foundation. Where’s That Money Headed?

In case you missed it, the largest charitable gift ever made in San Antonio’s history just landed. The record-setting donation was made by Texas movie theater mogul John L. Santikos and represents the bulk of his estate. Santikos passed away about a year ago at the age of 87. He established the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation in 2011.

Santikos’ $605 million gift triples the size of the San Antonio Area Foundation, and as the Rivard Report pointed out, Santikos’ transformational gift represents the biggest infusion of charitable dollars into the city’s nonprofit world since the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation in 1991.

So where has this money been going so far, and what do we expect it to support in 2016?

Well, Santikos wanted 10 percent of annual disbursements to go to International Orthodox Christian Charities and Doctors without Borders USA. Meanwhile, most of the other 90 percent will go to nonprofits in the San Antonio area. The Santikos Charitable Foundation is currently managed as a San Antonio Area Foundation asset.

According to a press release, the estate released $6.6 million in 2015 for memorial gifts. In total, 141 grants were awarded to 113 agencies whose missions aligned with Santikos’ personal passions. Four nonprofits will honor the late entrepreneur with naming rights, including the Southwest School of Art, which received $1.5 million and will name a campus building after Santikos.

These are the types of charitable programs that Santikos indicated that he wanted his funds to support:

  • K-12 and higher education
  • Public libraries
  • Arts & culture
  • Parks
  • Museums
  • Medicine, healthcare and medical research
  • Seniors
  • People with special needs
  • Victims of child abuse
  • Disaster relief

In addition to the more than $6 million distributed this year, Santikos’ gift will contribute more than $2 million to the Area Foundation’s annual competitive grant program.  In general, the San Antonio Area Foundation makes grants in the following focus areas in Bexar and the surrounding counties of Frio, Atascosa, Karnes, Wilson, Guadalupe, Gonzales, Comal, Blanco, Kendall, Gillespie, Kerr, Bandera and Medina.

  • Animal Services
  • Arts & Culture
  • Biomedical Research
  • Children & Youth
  • Medicine & Healthcare
  • Seniors and Community-at-Large
  • High School Completion
  • Strengthening Nonprofits
  • Programs Serving the African American population
  • Programs Serving the Hispanic population
  • Programs Serving Women and Girls

A new board of directors was assembled back in April to oversee Santikos funds at the Area Foundation, and a press release shared the following statement:

The Area Foundation will work hard to fully integrate Mr. Santikos’ principles through the Area Foundation’s annual grants program and its relationship with Santikos Theatres and its affiliated real estate companies in order to achieve a lasting legacy for Mr. Santikos.

Since then, the Area Foundation has been working with the new board to establish a set of operating principles. There are no family members involved with the late Santikos’ businesses or theaters these days.

The process for applying for a 2016 grant from the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation will be announced in January, so stay tuned if your nonprofit serves the Texas counties of Bexar, Atascosa, Bandera, Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall, Medina and Wilson. General inquiries can be directed to

To learn more about this funder, see IP's full profile, San Antonio Area Foundation: Texas Grants.