Founded in 1942 by Samuel Goldwyn, the Entertainment Industry Foundation was formed to leverage the power of showbiz for various charitable organizations. Goldwyn leaned on the help of such friends as Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Joan Crawford and Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack L. Warner in the early days of the Permanent Charities Committee of the Motion Picture Industry, as the organization was originally known.
In the decades since, EIF has spawned and collaborated with many high-profile philanthropic programs, such as Stand Up to Cancer, Revlon Run Walk, National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, Music for Relief, XQ and Hunger Is. Thus far, EIF has pledged more than $1 billion for its philanthropic initiatives.
“Seventy-five years ago, when my grandfather Samuel Goldwyn founded EIF, it was with the understanding that the collective power of the entertainment community had the ability to impact critical health, education and social issues in a positive way,” says John Goldwyn, who, along with brother Tony, works to continue the legacy of their grandfather’s charitable contributions.
“This sustained sense of purpose and unique ability to harness the power of the entertainment community as a force for good have kept EIF at the intersection of entertainment and philanthropy.”
In an effort to rebrand and expand upon its philanthropic reach, in October 2017, EIF hired powerhouse nonprofit foundation manager Nicole Sexton, formerly chief of staff at the Central Park Conservancy, as its new CEO and president.
“The [Los Angeles] community itself had, for a number of years, not understood exactly what EIF’s purpose was,” says Sexton. “There’s been this extraordinary success of our program Stand Up to Cancer, but our real purpose is serving the actual community, the community of Los Angeles. People knew about Stand Up to Cancer, but they didn’t know about EIF. And what we found was that the needs and desires of that community were not entirely being met. EIF was being underutilized. So we took things back to basics. We went back to the drawing board.”
Along with EIF’s leadership team, including chair and director Chris Silbermann, managing partner of ICM, Sexton assessed EIF’s programs with a keen eye on examining what its primary role in philanthropy should be and how it could more effectively “be a tool for people in the entertainment industry who wanted to use their voice and their ability to raise funds or awareness for positive social impact.
“Not every celebrity is positioned, nor should they be, to start their own foundation on their own,” says Sexton. “So if we’re going to be an effective tool, we should offer to be their fiscal sponsor.
“This was really the first step in re-engagement in a meaningful way to the entertainment community, and we’ve had this extraordinary opportunity to partner with some celebrities from the music and sports world in addition to those from the acting world, which has been the traditional model.”
Silbermann, who got involved with EIF through former Paramount Studios CEO Sherry Lansing, founder of her eponymous cancer foundation and former EIF chair, played a critical role in selecting Sexton as the org’s new leader and works closely with her on its slate of projects.
“I always believed in EIF’s mission, and I felt like I could make a difference, and it was very important to me to protect and build on Sherry’s legacy,” he says. “I’ve always had the philosophy that any time you get to some place just try to leave it better than when you got there. Help shape it and push it forward and make it stronger.
“It takes a lot of people to make this work,” he adds. “We brought in Nicole to really shape EIF and rotate out old programs that might not make sense and make new things and really start to create a strategic plan for the next 10, 20 years of what EIF can be.”
Functioning as an umbrella organization and fiscal sponsor, EIF will now focus on developing initiatives and campaigns, joining the ranks of its programs such as disaster aid org Music for Relief, founded by Linkin Park.
“The next six months is going to be about putting ourselves out there and really leveraging the foundation that we have unearthed and the incredible asset that we are to the community,” says Sexton. “We’re doing it through programs and campaigns and game-changing conversation that only an organization like EIF is positioned to do.”