Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation: Grants for Chicago

OVERVIEW: The Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation is the philanthropic vehicle of real estate billionaire Neil Bluhm. Most of Bluhm's philanthropy is focused on education, arts and culture, and Jewish causes in Chicago.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, arts and culture, Jewish causes

IP TAKE: Bluhm has been ramping up its giving in recent years, from giving just over $2 million in 2010, to around $7 million more recently. The foundation has no website, and all listed staff members are family.

PROFILE: Established in 2007, the Bluhm Family Charitable Foundation is based in Chicago. Neil Bluhm grew up in a Chicago apartment, his father left the family when he was 13, and Bluhm's mother raised him and his sister on a bookkeeper's salary. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and received a law degree from Northwestern University. After graduating, Bluhm worked at a Chicago law firm where he made partner. He left the legal world and ventured into real estate, now owning marquee shopping territory along Chicago's Michigan Avenue, plus the Ritz and Four Seasons, and property in Houston and Los Angeles. Foundation areas of giving interest are education, arts and culture, Jewish causes.

Bluhm has been big on education in the Chicago area. Northwestern University often receives Bluhm’s support and received a $25 million grant in the past. Millions more went to the law school to fund student financial aid programs and a legal clinic in his name. Other funds went to Northwestern’s cardiovascular institute, the music school, the Holocaust Educational Foundation and Northwestern Memorial Foundation. Other education outfits in Chicago receiving funding from Bluhm include Year Up-Chicago, and the Erickson Institute. Bluhm has also given to Marwen Arts Campus, Intonation Music Workshop, and Urban Getaways, which describes itself as giving "high-quality, accessible arts experiences to young people." Chicago area arts outfits receiving funding include Chicago Children's Museum, and the Harris Museum of Music and Dance. In addition, Bluhm, who was born into a Jewish family, has supported Jewish causes such as the United Jewish Fund.

Many recent grants have been between $2,000 and $2.6 million. The foundation has gradually increased grantmaking from around $1 to 2 million a year, to as high as around $7 million each year for the past few years. Grantseekers can learn more about this funder’s giving by examining its recent tax records. Although grantmaking does not appear to be restricted to Chicago, much of the funding stays in this region.

This foundation does not have a website, nor does it appear to accept unsolicited grant proposals. The foundation’s phone number is 312-915-2893, and its address is 900 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 1600, Chicago, IL  60611. Bluhm runs the foundation with his three children.


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