The Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation often gives quietly and anonymously, which is why many Los Angeles nonprofits may never have heard of it. However, this funder has been on the local scene since 1952 and has been giving over $7 million in annual grants lately.
Although the Leavey Foundation does not have a website and only limited information can be discerned about its grantmaking process, here’s what we do know about this Los Angeles-based grantmaker.
Specific and targeted interests
Over the years, the Leavey Foundation has awarded grants to many of the same organizations year after year, organizations working in a few distinct fields. Top interests are hospitals, medical research, K-12 education, higher education and Catholic organizations.
Thomas and Dorothy Leavey were devout Catholics who supported various Catholic causes, directing significant funding to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the mother church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The foundation has also given $10 million to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to replace the Cathedral of St. Vibiana building after it was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
Major grantees that have received grants of at least a million dollars from the Leavey Foundation include Santa Clara University, the University of Southern California, St. John’s Health Center and Cathedral High School. The foundation has also awarded scholarships to the children of Farmers Group employees. (Thomas Leavey co-founded the Farmers Insurance company in 1928.)
Dedicated to Los Angeles
Almost all Leavey grants stay within Southern California and primarily in the city of Los Angeles. The exceptions are often major universities that have a personal connection to the Leavey family or are doing broad work that has the potential to affect numerous communities.
Some Leavey grants have come with naming rights. At Loyola Marymount University, the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles focuses on public opinion surveys, while the Chalon Campus of Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles has a Dorothy and Thomas Leavey Commons.
A family-run foundation
The founding couple have since passed away, but the Leavey Foundation is still a family-run organization. Thomas Leavey passed away in 1980, followed by his wife, Dorothy, in 1998. Today, Kathleen McCarthy Kostlan, the couple’s daughter, runs the Leavey Foundation as its chairperson. The couple’s other daughter was killed in a car accident in 1979. Other trustees of the foundation are Michael Enright, Jacqueline Powers Doud, Louis Castruccio, Tom Lemons, Michael McCarthy, Mark Lemons and Jeffrey Kearns.
An accessible grantmaker
Although the Leavey Foundation maintains a low profile, it is an accessible grantmaker that accepts unsolicited requests for funding. Southern California organizations should simply submit a letter with their request and supporting documentation to the foundation’s trustees via mail. Recent grants have ranged all the way from $5,000 to $1 million, with most of the awards in the $10,000 to $50,000 range.