Corporate Grantmaker has its Own Brand of Hands-on Philanthropy

August 22, 2008 |

Real estate developers often know more about local neighborhoods than many other businesses. Majestic Realty Co.’s work developing master-planned business parks gives its team members unique insights into the challenges neighborhoods face, whether it’s violence, homelessness, hunger or school drop-out rates. After a long history of giving, Majestic Realty formalized its philanthropic program with the creation of the Majestic Realty Foundation. The goal was to move from passive to active philanthropy and to leverage the company’s resources and relationships to create strategic partnerships with local nonprofit organizations.

The company has a long commitment to philanthropy that began with its founder, the late Edward P. Roski, Sr., and continues with its current Chairman and CEO, Edward P. Roski, Jr. “However, the real mission of our Foundation is to move beyond just writing checks into an active role in the nonprofit sector,” explains Foundation President Fran Inman. The grantmakers hands-on approach includes a commitment to take leadership roles in local organizations, recruit the company’s tenants, vendors, brokers and employees to support its community efforts, and perhaps most importantly, act as an agent for cooperation, helping area nonprofits form relationships that increase their capacity.

“We wrote a business plan, rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We didn’t wait until it was perfect, we just remained flexible.”
– Fran Inman, President, Majestic Realty Foundation

Leadership Development is Flagship Program

Majestic Realty Foundation’s flagship program, the Los Angeles Youth Leadership Council (LAYLC), is an innovative leadership development collaborative that brings together high school students and staff members from six inner-city youth centers.

“We found that by being the convener, bringing the students and staff together created a tremendous value,” says Inman.

Since its inception, the Los Angeles Youth Leadership Council has helped more than 300 at-risk teens develop leadership skills. Programs include monthly student meetings, volunteer efforts, SAT prep and college tours, leadership camp, forums with high-profile guest speakers, and job training workshops. Given the drop-out rate in Los Angeles, a most impressive statistic is that every one of the high school seniors last year graduated from high school and went on to some form of higher education.

Community Role & Recognition

Recently the Majestic Realty Foundation received the Courageous Leadership Award from Women Against Gun Violence (WAGV) and the Spirit of Volunteerism Award from the San Gabriel Valley Volunteer Center. In 2007, the Foundation was honored as “Outstanding Corporate Foundation” on National Philanthropy Day by the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, received the Crystal Heart Award from the American Heart Association-Los Angeles, and the Good Shepherd Humanitarian Award. And in 2005 the Foundation was named to the “Top 10 Charitable Foundations in Los Angeles County” by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

The Foundation supports national organizations like Ronald McDonald House, Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCAs and local Children’s Hospitals, but also works to identify smaller organizations, awarding more than 300 grants annually for a total of more than $2 million in 2006. Grantees include regional food banks, youth arts programs, educational institutions, drug and gang-prevention programs, literacy projects and health programs.

Faced with the challenge of applying its resources in the far-flung geographic regions served by the company, the Foundation uses “Area Planning Teams” comprised of Majestic Realty Co., Majestic Management Co. and Commerce Construction Co., L.P. employees to help identify grantmaking priorities in each location: greater Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley, the Inland Empire, Las Vegas, Denver/Aurora, Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, and Bethlehem.

Hands-on Approach

Inman points to the Foundation’s involvement with Southern California Grantmakers as one way she reaches out to the local philanthropic community. “We like to be close to our peers and figure out what other people are doing, and then, if there are people that should be there beside us, we’re happy to go recruit them to join us,” she says.

The Foundation’s hands-on philosophy is expressed in the way it selects grantees. “The site visits are so important to us, and I think that comes from our real estate training,” says Inman. “We would never buy land without doing our due diligence.”

The hands-on approach also extends to the way the Foundation treats its grantees. “We’re not really hung up on lots of complicated applications or filings,” Inman reports. “We need milestones and we need to measure our outcomes, but there’s so much that can be done just by being shoulder-to-shoulder in the community.”

“I love going out to visit our grant recipients. One group teaches English literacy to folks that are not literate in their native tongue. When you visit, there’s a jam-packed class in session and a line waiting for the next class. And then when you visit the youth centers and there are the moms sitting outside chatting while the kids are inside taking their classes, you can really get a feel for who is making a difference in their community.”

Giving Helps Business & Vice Versa

Founded as a separate 501(c)(3), the Majestic Realty Foundation receives financial support from Majestic Realty Co., development partners, and Commerce Construction. The company supports a number of efforts to encourage team members to become actively engaged in the nonprofit sector, including a program that provides a two-to-one match for employee donations to qualified nonprofits. Its “Get On Board” campaign enlists managers to serve on the boards of more than 60 nonprofit organizations nationwide – a significant achievement for a company with only 200 employees. More than $40,000 was raised for local nonprofits in 2007 through a program that lets employees pay $5 per week for a casual dress day. Employees also contribute thousands of hours of volunteer service to community-based organizations.

Fran Inman, who will be Chairman of the Board of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce next year, emphasizes the ways business skills can help grantee organizations. Describing her activities on the board of trustees of a regional food bank, she says, “I’m leading a capacity analysis and that really taps into our work with logistics and the supply chain for our for-profit business. We’re looking at what we need to do to move 49 million pounds of food to end hunger as it’s defined in Southern Nevada, how many partners, who are our partners, how can our partners grow. We have to make sure the chain has all of its links in place to move that food.”

Roll Up Your Sleeves

What advice would Fran Inman give other companies thinking about starting a corporate foundation? “I would say just jump in there and go for it. When we started, we looked around and we could not see a corporate foundation that we wanted to emulate exclusively. We wrote a business plan, rolled up our sleeves and got to work. We didn’t wait until it was perfect, we just remained flexible.”


Founded: 2002

Founding Board Members: Fran Inman, President; Gail Kiralla, Secretary; and David A. Wheeler, Treasurer.

Number of Grantees: More than 300 annually

Recent Grants: more than $2 million in 2006

Total Giving to Date: more than $8.3 million

Key Investment Areas:

  • Youth
  • Education
  • Family
  • Health
  • Violence Prevention

Grant Process: Proposals are reviewed and selected on an on-going basis throughout the year.

Funding Schedule: The Majestic Realty Foundation does not have a specific funding schedule. Proposals are reviewed and selected on an on-going basis throughout the year.

Types of Grants: Restricted and unrestricted grants are available, though priority is given to grants with matching funds from strategic partnerships and solicited proposals.

Grantee Restrictions: Funding Guidelines exclude programs that are start-up, individuals, federated funds or pass-through organizations, religiously or otherwise exclusive, lobbying or electioneering, or non-charities.