A little-known student lender tops the Business Journal's list of 50 largest charitable nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles.

Access to Loans for Learning Student Loan Corp., better known as All Student Loan, is No. 1 with $850 million in assets, besting such giants as the California Community Foundation, whose $512 million in assets placed its second.

Also in the Top 10 were other relatively obscure organizations, including No. 3 Daughters of Charity Foundation, a Catholic foundation run by an order of sisters, and No. 5 QueensCare, a religious-oriented medical care provider.

While the Rand Corp. think tank placed fourth with $354 million in assets, another far less well-known research institution called the Aerospace Corp. had more employees than any other organization.

Another surprise: the young Skirball Cultural Center bested all other cultural institutions, including the venerable Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with $232 million in assets, placing it ninth.

"There are so many different types of non-profits," said Elise Buik, acting chief executive of the Los Angeles United Way Inc., the 28th largest charity "It's a pretty eclectic list."

The list ranks the 50 largest public charities by asset size. It includes foundations that solicit public donations, but excludes private foundations such as the J. Paul Getty Trust, which are funded by individual donors. (The list also excludes non-profit hospitals and educational institutions, which the Business Journal ranks separately.)

In some cases, the assets largely consist of endowments, while in others they represent real estate holdings or a combination. The organizations also differ in purpose: a few are largely grant makers such as the Community Foundation, which supports a variety of smaller agencies, while many rely on donations to run their own programs. Several, including the United Way and the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, are hybrids and do both.

The list only represents a fraction of the 6,400 public non-profits with annual revenues over $25,000 that are registered with the Internal Revenue Service to operate in Los Angeles County. The majority are run on shoestring budgets of less than $1 million.

"I think that non-profits matter, but often times the work we do is invisible," said Florence Green, executive director of the California Association of Nonprofits. "But the kind of work we do has a lot to do with what makes our communities livable."

Famous and obscure

On the list are 14 cultural institutions, 13 social service agencies, eight retirement operators, six medical care providers and three foundations. Many have a religious orientation, including Jewish institutions such as the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles and several retirement home operators.

As might be expected, there are some with Hollywood ties, including the Academy Foundation, which operates the charitable arm of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The largest public charity in Los Angeles, All Student Loan, makes student loans and then holds them on its books, creating an asset base of $850 million. The non-profit lender was formed in 1980 to buy student loans on the secondary market, but now makes loans directly to students and is the fifth largest higher education lender in California. It claims its non-profit status allows it to lend at lower rates than for-profit competitors such as Bank of America.

"We don't have shareholders to please so we don't have to give dividends. Any revenue that comes in we plow back into the program in the form of reduced interest rates and fees," said Chief Executive Christopher Chapman.
All Student Loan is joined on the list by another financial institution, the Los Angeles Community Development Bank, which loans funds to businesses in economically distressed neighborhoods.

But the list is dominated by cultural institutions, social service organizations and health care providers that account for 33 of the 50 entries. Among those are the well-known Young Men's Christian Association of Metropolitan Los Angeles, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles Inc. and the United Way.

There are also smaller ones with more specific missions, such as the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center and the Union Rescue Mission, which cares for the homeless in the downtown area.

The two largest social service and medical organizations are among the least known: the Daughters of Charity Foundation and QueensCare.

The foundation was started in 1983 by the Daughters of Charity, Province of the West, an order of Catholic sisters that sponsors a chain of hospitals in the state, including St. Vincent Medical Center. The order follows the teaching of St. Vincent de Paul, who helped the impoverished.

Eight years ago the foundation had little money, but in 1997 it was bequeathed a quarter billion dollars in United Parcel Service stock by foundation board member Verle Pozzo, the former wife of UPS founder James E. Casey.

That stock and other assets are now valued at over $500 million, allowing the sisters to distribute nearly $33 million in the year ended June 30, 2003. About $15 million was used to prop up the hospitals, and millions more were given for other purposes, much of it religious oriented.

"We were given this wonderful endowment. We see that as Providence," said Sister Joyce Weller, who does not draw a salary as chairwoman and chief executive of the foundation and lives in a home with 10 other sisters on the grounds of St. Vincent Medical Center.

Two spots behind, with $353 million in assets, is QueensCare, which was created out of the merger of Queen of Angels and Hollywood Presbyterian hospitals in 1989. In 1998 it got a big boost from the sale of the merged hospital to Tenet Healthcare Corp. That added $135 million to its endowment.

It now operates a series of clinics in the Hollywood area and a program that sends nurses to churches, social service agencies and schools. Other programs include a dental van it sends to the poorest Los Angeles elementary schools.

Cultural leaders

Retirement homes also rank among the largest non-profits. Many have modest endowments but real estate values have given them a large asset base.

Many of these also have a religious orientation because they were started by churches among them the Episcopal Home Communities, Southern California Presbyterian Homes and Eisenberg Village of the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging.

The largest, and No. 4 on the list with $330 million in assets, is Front Porch Communities and Services, a Burbank-based operator of 12 nursing homes, including 10 in California with 2,500 residents.

Front Porch was formed through a 1999 merger of three different operators, including California Lutheran Homes and Pacific Homes, a Methodist operation. "When you operate a group of retirement communities you are like the mayor of a small town. You provide different services," said Tim Dettman, who runs two of the foundations that support the operators of the homes.

Cultural institutions make up nearly a third of the list. They include some of the biggest names in the non-profit world: the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, the Henry E. Huntington Library & Art Gallery and Museum Associates, which runs the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Yet one of the youngest cultural institutions in Los Angeles ranks as the largest by asset size: the Skirball Cultural Center, whose asset base has skyrocketed to $232 million just eight years after the opening of its new campus, which has since expanded.

The Skirball and five other Jewish institutions on the list make up a disproportionate number of the leading public charities in the county. John Fishel, president of the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles, which has assets of $137 million and runs the United Jewish Fund campaign, thinks it has to do with "tzedakah."

"It's a Hebrew word that roughly translates as charity, and it also translates as social justice," said Fishel, whose organization is the 18th largest. "It ennobles not only the person receiving the gift, but it also ennobles the donor."

Among the other Jewish organizations: the controversial Irving I. Moscowitz Foundation, which is based in Hawaiian Gardens and operates a card club in that small city. It has $46 million in assets placing it thirty-second on the list.

Moscowitz has given millions of dollars to build and support Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank, drawing both praise and criticism. Among the biggest supporters: Hawaiian Gardens officials. The city of 15,700 relies on his casino for 75 percent of its budget, and receives millions from the foundation. Moscowitz, who lives in Florida, declined to comment.

Diverse group

There are other less traditional organizations on the list.
The Academy Foundation runs a leading Hollywood research library and film archive, and also gives away close to $1 million in grants to universities and other media centers to promote film-related programs. Also funded are scholarships and fellowships.

"We are running a major research facility. Doing a lot of programs and giving away money," said Ric Robertson, executive administrator of the Beverly Hills-based institution.

Los Angeles is also home to two international relief agencies, including World Vision International, a Monrovia-based agency that has more revenues $724 million than any other organization on the list. The agency claims to be the largest food aid handler in the world and the largest contractor with the United Nations Food Organization.

International Medical Corps, based in Santa Monica, is only a fraction of that size with $23 million in assets and No. 50 on the list. But it has a niche: sending aid workers to hot spots other agencies don't like to go, such as Somalia, Sudan and Iraq.

Then there is the Thru the Bible Radio Network, a Pasadena radio network that broadcasts in nearly 200 countries with a simple formula: airing the non-denominational Biblical teachings of Dr. J. Vernon McGee, who long led the Church of the Open Door in downtown L.A.

McGee has been dead for 16 years yet his ministry keeps growing, helped along by a group of dedicated volunteers and some $18.5 million in donations that buys air times all across the globe. It has accumulated $67 million in assets.

"We want to go to all 237 countries of the world. We are about 85 percent there. That is our goal," said Leo Karlyn, a real estate fund manager who takes no pay as chief executive of the network. "The whole word to the whole world is our mission statement."

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