In 1952, Howard F. Ahmanson and his wife, Dorothy Grannis Ahmanson, established The Ahmanson Foundation – planting the early seeds for philanthropy that would increasingly become synonymous with the Ahmanson name in Los Angeles. Yet it wasn’t until 1961 that Howard Ahmanson joined the Board of the organization, and he spent the near-decade in between continuing to “increase the foundation’s assets,” according to its website, ultimately building one of the United States’ largest savings and loans associations at a time when Los Angeles was rapidly growing and home ownership was skyrocketing. Through this business, Ahmanson helped create the Los Angeles we know today, and The Ahmanson Foundation has stayed connected to “the simple principle of building community for the common good” within that city.
Sixty-five years later, the organization is still guided by principles of its founding, which have led it to “[concentrate] its funding on cultural projects supporting the arts, education at the collegiate and pre-collegiate levels, medicine and delivery of health care services, specialized library collections, programs related to homelessness and low-income populations, preservation of the environment, and a wide range of human service projects.”
The Ahmanson family remains at the helm of the organization and Bill Ahmanson, great-nephew of Howard F. Ahmanson, is the sitting president. Bill comes to the position from a twenty-year career in banking. “A good portion of that was spent turning around troubled loan offices,” Ahmanson said, “and operating a foundation is much like operating the loan office for a bank.”
His time working with troubled offices gave him a deeper understanding of a much larger swath of the city (as did his time working as a reserve officer for the Los Angeles Police Department in Hollywood and South Los Angeles). While The Ahmanson Foundation distributes funds to achieve impact, he and the foundation maintain a customer-service oriented ethos in the relationship with grantees, which he refers to as customers, that harkens to his time in banking.
“The Foundation has a product to get out, and that’s five percent of the endowment every year” Ahmanson said. “I use the word customers rather than grantees or organizations, because I look at our grantees more like customers, and the dynamic of a grantmaker being on a pedestal and the grantees being around them is a false dynamic.”
Major Program Categories: The Ahmanson Foundation directs its giving toward the areas of the arts and humanities, education, human services, and health and medicine. The foundation’s grants in these areas are largely dedicated toward capital projects, with the understanding that these nuts-and-bolts-type needs are frequently less attractive to other kinds of donors.
“We’ve stuck with that [capital support], versus say going deeper into operating support and general support, because a lot of the social service agencies, they get [reimbursements] and donations for the program,” said Ahmanson, “but then there’s nothing left to maintain the standards of excellence of the office space and the equipment that they use on a day-to-day basis.”
While the name Ahmanson is largely affiliated with the arts in L.A., a third or more of its funding goes toward health and human services programs, according to Bill Ahmanson. “And that health and human services includes organizations that help foster youth and youth recently removed from their home as well as up into adults,” Ahmanson said. “So as a strategy specific to the foster youth, we don’t have a strategy for that, but in the last couple of years we’ve become more attuned to that need.”
Examples of 2016 youth-oriented grant recipients include A Place Called Home, which received $200,000 to renovate and expand facilities, and Bienvenidos Children’s Center, Inc., which received $50,000 to purchase a van and to expand a foster care and adoption program.
How to Apply: According to the website, connecting with The Ahmanson Foundation for funding begins with mailing the foundation a hard-copy Letter of Inquiry (LOI). The LOI should be printed on organizational letterhead, signed by an “executive director, president or appropriate Board representative” and should include specific details about the organization’s mission, history, finances and goals for the project/programming. Click here for a detailed description of the points to address. The LOI should be sent to:
The Ahmanson Foundation
9215 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Organizations can expect to hear back within 30 days if they do not qualify to move forward, or if they are invited to submit a full proposal.
What might help an organization look like a promising customer to The Ahmanson Foundation? Community need, and the ability to meet it. Programs should have a track record of success for three to five years. “They have to demonstrate that they’re doing what they say they’re going to do,” said Ahmanson, “and that there’s actually a need for it in their community.”
Click here to learn more about The Ahmanson Foundation’s requirements and expectations for grant proposals.
Name of Foundation: The Ahmanson Foundation
Location: Beverly Hills, Calif.
Contact Information: Email – [email protected]; Phone – 310.278.0770.
Coverage Area: Los Angeles, Calif.
Subject Area: Arts and Humanities, Education, Health and Medicine, Human Services
Assets: $1,066,968,000 (Through October 31, 2016)
Last Year Grants Approved (net): $45,406,000 (Through October 31, 2016)
Recent News and Grantmaking: