How We Do It

How We Do It

Building replicable, scalable, and sustainable solutions to massive problems faced by people and pets


Awarding Catalytic Grants to High-potential Opportunities

Michelson Philanthropies’ approach to grantmaking focuses on opportunities for catalytic change. Whether we are funding a new business model that can be replicated once proven, or making grants to fund new technology that scales up an organization’s services, Michelson Philanthropies awards grants with the intent to multiply and sustain increased positive impact.

Our rapid-response Spark Grants model fills urgent needs at a critical moment in an organization’s development. For example, The Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program (founder Brandon Smith pictured left), which helps inmates who participate in “fire camp” work by fighting California’s wildfires while incarcerated and as they transition to gainful, full-time employment with the California’s fire fighting force. The Spark Grant awarded to them in 2020 helped extend their work in building a scalable, sustainable, fee-for-service model that provides transitional employment and reentry support while helping participants as they navigate the firefighting career maze.



Making Impact Investments that Generate Innovation

Through our Impact Investments, Michelson Philanthropies seeks to accelerate progress toward a more just, equitable, and compassionate world by nurturing nascent, market-driven technologies that catalyze change at scale in the fields of the knowledge economy and pet care, to name just two areas. Our investments have supported and provided purpose-driven capital to nearly 50 companies in education, the future of work, and animal welfare.

One example is Project Blu, a Welsh pet retail company at the forefront of sustainable pet products. Launching in 2019 and participating in Leap Venture Studio (Michelson Found Animals’ pet startup accelerator, 2018 Cohort) the same year, they have sold more than 87,000 pet-related products made from over six million recycled plastic bottles. Project Blu has also developed a new vegan leather option made from apple skins, releasing in 2021.



Operating Programs

Michelson Philanthropies operates programs that create efficient, replicable, scalable solutions to market gaps in human and pet services. Successes include Michelson Found Animals Foundation’s Better Neighbor Project (BNP), which partners with human service organizations to deliver complimentary pet care resources directly to communities most in need.

In response to the rise in job, housing, and food insecurity triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, BNP partnered with the YMCA of Metro Los Angeles to augment multiple weekly food pantries with pet food distribution. A series of Pet Wellness Days run in partnership with multiple community partners launched soon thereafter, offering free pet care, including food, veterinary checks, vaccines, spay/neuter services, microchipping, and more to pets and families who need it most.



Promoting Progress Through Education and Advocacy

Michelson Philanthropies actively engages in education and advocacy initiatives that expand funding for medical research, increase access to education and careers for underserved communities, promote understanding of intellectual property, and protect animals. 

In 2020, as a response to the growing digital divide caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Michelson 20MM Foundation launched the Connecting California Series to build awareness of and advocate for paradigm-shifting approaches to increase digital equity by closing the digital divide. This brings together business leaders, digital equity practitioners, internet service providers, philanthropic investors and policymakers – all of whom represent different facets of the complex landscape around digital equity – to increase investments into emerging and proven solutions to help students gain fair access to remote learning. Through Connecting California and the Digital Equity initiative, Michelson 20MM will soon establish equitable primary, secondary, and post-secondary educational access.

Featured Grantee


“Back in 2013, Michelson Found Animals believed in our vision of reducing the number of pets entering the shelter by supporting their families. Seven years later, and more than 14,000 successful cases at the South Los Angeles Shelter, the concept of pet retention is one that every progressive animal welfare organization is involved in, or considering as part of the community solution.

Without Dr. Michelson’s consistent generosity, Downtown Dog Rescue would have never had the opportunity to experiment, and take actions that have resulted in our Shelter Intervention program evolving into the Pet Support Space, where services for pets and people are combined at one location. More than just paying for services, or giving away free things, our program is often a shift in a family’s way of thinking about pet care, including spay and neuter.”

Lori Weise
Executive Director
Downtown Dog Rescue