NET WORTH: $1.55 billion
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Baupost Group
FUNDING AREAS: Health, Education, Jewish Causes, Boston Community
OVERVIEW: Seth Klarman and wife Beth created their family foundation in 1991, and have gradually increased their philanthropic contributions as Klarman’s fortune grew. Three chosen areas of focus are medical research (particularly in the area of behavioral health), music education, and Jewish causes. His biggest single donation by far has been toward cell research.
BACKGROUND: Klarman grew up in Baltimore, and attended Cornell University and Harvard Business School before working at a mutual fund company, then leaving to found the Baupost Group just a few years later. He is known as a very conservative investor, generally holding much more cash in his portfolios than other major investors.
HEALTH: Klarman’s focus in health is advancing medical and scientific research, with a particular interest in behavioral health. His largest contribution has been to the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard, which received a $32.5 million gift in 2012 to create the Klarman Cell Observatory. The goal of the observatory is to systematically define cellular circuits in mammalian cells, which will help understand a variety of diseases and develop effective treatments.
In the Boston Community, the Klarmans have supported Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Boston Medical Center, in addition to a number of smaller donations to Boston area hospitals and health centers. Additionally, Klarman has provided significant funding to Health Law Advocates, which provides pro bono legal representation to low-income residents experiencing difficulty accessing or paying for needed medical services, and the Pan-Mass Challenge, a cycling event that raises money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
On a broader scale, Klarman has contributed to the Autism Consortium, and given several million to Health Resources in Action, which is based in Boston, but has worked on projects all over the country to ensure health resources are deployed effectively. While smaller donations to organizations focusing on specific areas appear to be rare, he has made a couple donations in the $10 to $20 thousand range to the National Eating Disorders Association.
EDUCATION: In addition to his alma mater Cornell which received $26 million alone in 2013, Klarman has given significant amounts to Amherst College, Boston University, Brookline Public Schools, the Perkins School for the Blind, Boston After School & Beyond, and other Boston area schools and organizations, particularly through EdVestors, which directs private donations to urban school improvement efforts.
Klarman is particularly interested in arts education for young people, and most especially music education, which has led him to fund organizations such as the Conservatory Lab Charter School, the Boston Youth Symphony, the Boston Arts Academy, Artists for Humanity Boston, the Boston Children’s Chorus, and From the Top, which celebrates the power of music in the hands of extraordinary young people. He has also supported organizations that give inner city kids the chance to experience the outdoors such as Outward Bound and the Camp Harbor View Foundation.
BOSTON COMMUNITY: Klarman supports a wide range of programs in the Boston area, the majority of which help the poor, and particularly women, children, and families. He’s given tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations such as the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program, the Family Service Association of Greater Boston, the Brookline Community Mental Health Center, Parenting Resource Associates, Adolescent Consultation Services, Food Project, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club of Boston, Rosie’s Place, a sanctuary for poor and homeless women. He’s been also been a major supporter of the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, which develops leaders of community organizations, and Strategic Grant Partners, incubator and pro bono consulting firm for Boston area non-profits.
Klarman’s support of cultural organizations is less pronounced, but he has also made donations to organizations such as the Boston Public Library, Boston Ballet, Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Community Music Center of Boston, and Emerald Necklace Conservancy.
JEWISH CAUSES: Klarman is perhaps most well known for his support of Jewish organizations, both in the Boston area, and nationally. Much of this giving is the subject of some controversy however, as his stance on Israel is seen, even by many in his own community, as ideologically hard-line. He has made significant contributions to organizations such as The Israel Project, The David Project, and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies—groups that support policies like continued Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, Palestinian expulsions in occupied East Jerusalem, and maximum sanctions for Iran. Perhaps even more troubling, he supports groups that operate in the Islamic community, and have been accused by some as front groups whose goal is to undermine mainstream Muslim and Arab-American organizations.
Of course some of this philanthropy also goes toward serving the poor, bringing together the Jewish community, and other more noble causes as well, including significant portions of the $8.5 million that he’s given to The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, or the more than $8 million that has gone to Facing History and Ourselves.
LOOKING FORWARD: Look for Klarman to potentially wade in with larger donations in neurobiology, or perhaps more specific issues in related areas like ADHD or nutrition. In music education, he’s also mainly stuck to supporting organizations in his community, and this is another area where he might decide to do something on a larger scale. Continued funding for Jewish organizations of all shapes and sizes seems pretty likely, but perhaps with a little pressure, he will move toward a more moderate position with regard to Israeli-Arab relations.
Klarman Family Foundation
P.O. Box 171627
Boston, MA 02117