Daniel and Leslie Ziff

NET WORTH: $4.8 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Inherited, hedge funds, investments

FUNDING AREAS: Performing Arts, Conservation, New York

OVERVIEW: Along with his wife Leslie, Ziff has done his giving through a family foundation, and dance has lately been a growing focus. Overall giving is still modest and remains mostly local, but Ziff relatively young and has significant wealth, so is well worth watching. 

BACKGROUND: Daniel Ziff is the youngest of the three Ziff brothers who stood to inherit their family’s media empire. Ziff attended Columbia University and in 1992, he and his older brothers cofounded Ziff Brothers Investments (ZBI).


PERFORMING ARTS: Ziff has been donating money to the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts since 1997. That year, he wrote a check for $25,000 and since then, these donations have increased pretty steadily, eventually landing at $1 million annually for a few years in row. Lately, donations to the performing arts have become increasingly focused on dance. Grantees have included American Ballet Theater, Dynamic Forms Inc./Mark Degarmo and Dancers, and Polaris Dance Theatre. It should be mentioned that Leslie Ziff, who received her BFA in Dance, sits on the board of Rosie’s Theater Kids. The foundation's grantmaking has also supported Rosie’s Theater, Sing for Hope, the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, and the Metropolitan Opera, among others.

CONSERVATION: Ziff began writing checks to the National Audubon Society in 1996, with an initial donation of $100,000. Ziff has also been a supporter of Conservation International and the National Resources Defense Council.

NEW YORK: Many of Daniel Ziff’s donations stay close to home. Though the larger checks are written to Lincoln Center, Ziff has donated to other NYC-based outfits such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, New York Blood Center, Volunteers of America of Greater New York and Fractured Atlas Productions. Ziff has also given support to the Central Park Conservancy, American Museum of Natural History, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New York City and the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

LOOKING FORWARD: We'll be watching to see whether Ziff emerges to become a national funder who gives at a larger level. He certainly has the resources. A few larger donations outside of New York have been made in recent years such as to the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, the Chamber of Commerce Foundation in DC and Polaris Dance Theater in Portland. Otherwise, Ziff continues to follow a similar path of giving that he established long ago, making donations to large conservation organizations such as the NRDC and Conservation International and to a large number of New York-based organizations. 

One question is whether the Ziffs might also dabble more in education in the coming years, using dance as a vehicle to improve student outcomes. The couple's gift to Dynamic Forms Inc/Mark Degarmo and Dancers, for instance, established a 16-week dance residency at PS 142 in Manhattan for pre-K to third graders. They have also supported Girls Preparatory Charter School of New York and Harlem Village Academies.


The Leslie and Daniel Ziff Foundation
350 Park Avenue, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10222


Dirk Ziff
Robert Ziff