About the LBF:
A private philanthropic foundation

About the Legler Benbough Foundation

The Legler Benbough Foundation (LBF) was a private philanthropic foundation located in San Diego, California, that operated from 1985 to 2021. During that time, the foundation gave some $66.3 million to organizations throughout the San Diego community. Endowed by a lifelong San Diegan and proprietor of his family’s mortuary business, George Legler Benbough (who went by “Legler”), the LBF funded charitable initiatives of personal interest to the donor from 1985 until his death in 1998. At that time, and at Benbough’s request, two of Benbough’s professional confidants, Peter Ellsworth and Thomas Cisco, assumed control of the foundation. They devised a focused strategy to spend down the foundation’s assets to “accomplish something significant” in San Diego before the end of their working lives and in 2005 recruited a board of governing directors to guide this process.

After 2002, the LBF focused on improving the quality of life in San Diego in three core arenas: fighting systemic disadvantage in the Diamond Neighborhoods in southeast San Diego, supporting arts and cultural institutions in Balboa Park, and promoting research and technology development within San Diego’s burgeoning innovation sector as a way to fuel economic development. Given the goal to spend down the foundation’s assets, the LBF’s directors immediately sought to build relationships with grantees in each area—whom they referred to as “partners.” Relying on these partners to identify needs and set priorities, the LBF deepened these relationships and narrowed its focus over time to identify major, dispositive grants that would have a significant impact on the community. These grants were made over several years as the foundation spent itself out of existence in 2021.

In 2017, at the urging of others in the field and as one of its final gifts to the philanthropic community, the LBF engaged Vantage Point Historical Services, Inc. to help the foundation document its history. This work produced four case studies reviewing and analyzing the LBF’s 35-year record of work. Based on research in the LBF’s archives and interviews with the foundation’s directors, grantees, and other partners in San Diego, these case studies provide an overview of the strategies deployed and the foundation’s perspective on lessons learned from its grantmaking in San Diego.

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