The Goldhirsh Foundation was among the first KCRW supporters to invest in the Independent Producer Project. For the past two years the Foundation has provided grant funding that allows KCRW to provide financial and production support to some of public media’s most innovative independent storytellers.
Media and journalism are industries to which the Goldhirsh Foundation is quite familiar. Founded by magazine entrepreneur Bernard Goldhirsh and his wife Wendy in 2000, the Foundation focused its grantmaking on cancer research until it was restructured and relaunched in 2012. It now supports innovative projects focused on Los Angeles, the home of Trustees Ben Goldhirsh and Claire Hoffman. Ben is Co-Founder and CEO of GOOD—a social media platform working with nonprofits, NGOs, corporations, philanthropic foundations, and the public towards collective progress. His wife Claire Hoffman is a journalist who has written for the Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Fortune and many other outlets.
In 2013 the Goldhirsh Foundation launched its first major grantmaking initiative LA2050—a movement to shape and build the future of Los Angeles. Through LA2050 the Foundation hoped to “ignite the creativity and passion of Angelenos to make LA’s story one of hope for all” by awarding substantial grants to 10 local organizations working to improve the state of the city.
We sat down with Tara Roth McConaghy, President of the Goldhirsh Foundation, to talk more about why they chose to support the Independent Producer Project, their plans for LA2050, and how storytellers can help shape a better future for Angelenos.
KCRW: KCRW believes storytellers spark vibrant, intelligent dialogue and provide context in a complex world. This is the vision of the Independent Producer Project. In what way does IPP align with the Foundation’s philanthropic goals?
Goldhirsh: The Foundation and the Goldhirsh family have deep roots in the media and publishing industries. We understand the value of an informed citizenry and of investing in quality journalism that engages the pubic in improving our communities. This is the premise of much of the work we support at the Goldhirsh Foundation. When we first heard stories presented on the Independent Producer Project we knew right away that this project gives a platform for unique voices that might not otherwise be heard, and we wanted to be a part of it.
KCRW: Through LA2050 you emphasize how we can shape the “Story of Los Angeles”. What is the role of storytellers in the LA2050 movement?
Goldhirsh: We know that a good story, told in a compelling way, can shift people’s opinions of critical issues and motivate them to do something great. To create something that can make real social progress. This is what LA2050 is all about. We wanted to spark that entrepreneurial spirit in Los Angeles and challenge these groups to think creatively about the work they do, and how they can change the course of this city. Storytelling was a critical part of the LA2050 challenge. Each organization was encouraged to share a video about their idea. The public then voted for those groups that most effectively communicated their idea and inspired action. We’re so proud of the projects that came out of this challenge, and can’t wait to see the progress made by the ten award winners. They are a stellar group that will play a big part in shaping the future of Los Angeles.
KCRW: What kinds of stories did you discover from these groups?
Goldhirsh: There are so many excellent groups working to improve this city. We wanted to focus our grants on eight issues—we call them indicators—that are impacting life in L.A.: Arts & Cultural Vitality, Education, Environmental Quality, Health, Housing, Income & Employment, Public Safety, and Social Connectedness. We wanted to hear from projects throughout Los Angeles that are tackling these issues, and they really did deliver. We supported organizations that are recruiting volunteer mentors to educate our city’s youth, organizing reformed gang members that trying to end cycles of violence, or partnering with communities to turn around whole neighborhoods to improve conditions for residents and businesses. We’re proud to be a part of their stories.
KCRW: A big part of storytelling is getting listeners engaged in the story. KCRW is always looking for new ways to engage our listeners. How do you think nonprofits should engage the public in their work?
Goldhirsh: You all do a really great job of reaching audiences on whatever medium they seek out. That’s a critical tactic that nonprofits must consider when they plan community engagement work. Where is the community you’re trying to reach? What is the best way to get in front of them? How do you keep them engaged? As important as these questions are, it is equally (if not more) important that you give audiences an opportunity to communicate their feedback. And that can be through social media, through email, through community forums, through data analysis, and so forth. Listening is vital to good communication. And nonprofits would do well to give their constituents a way to voice their ideas.
KCRW: What should the next generation of philanthropists know about how best to support the work of storytellers?
Goldhirsh: We are living in a unique time when information on anything, really, is available at your fingertips. It’s critical that now— more than ever—we have reliable curators we can count on to give us accurate and engaging information. That’s what KCRW has been for us, and that’s why we continue to support the station.