Klarman Family Foundation: Boston Area Grants

OVERVIEW: Klarman has pronounced grantmaking criteria and focuses its grants in three areas: advancing understanding of the biological basis of health and illness; supporting the global Jewish community and the State of Israel; and expanding access to vital services and enrichment opportunities in Greater Boston.



IP TAKE: The Klarman Foundation is more about program than location. For Bostonians, this means that your research, music, or Jewish cause must align with the foundation's goals to stand out in the crowd. Klarman supports eating disorder causes both inside and outside the city.

PROFILE: The Klarman Family Foundation has emeged as a top arts & culture funder in the city of Boston, thanks to a high-profile partnership with the Barr Foundation. Both Barr and Klarman committed $700,000 each to the city's arts & culture plan, Boston Creates, to support this early planning work. These two funders teamed up to “provide cultural organizations the rainy day and investment funds they need to be nimble and proactive.”

The Barr-Klarman Arts Capacity Building Initiative makes multi-year, unrestrictive operating support grants to groups based on budget size and that focus on youth arts. But this partnership goes beyond traditional grantmaking. These grants are pretty flexible to begin with, but the funders’ support also  provides training and technical assistance through an entity known as the Technical Development Corporation. 

These are some of the biggest capacity-building issues for Klarman and Barr:

  • Capitalization
  • Artistic risk-taking
  • Using data for decision-making
  • Building audience demand
  • Audience diversification
  • Youth arts 

A few years ago, Seth and Beth Klarman made some noise in the biomedical research field when they awarded $32.5 million to the Broad Institute to establish the Klarman Cell Observatory. It wasn't the first time the Klarmans were major benefactors of research, and as one of the largest funders of science research in the region, it likely won't be the last.

The $32.5 million grant to the Broad Institute is atypical of the Klarman Foundation, and total annual grantmaking, on average, tends to fall around the $25 million mark.

Compared with most foundations, Klarman features a very targeted approach, which certainly sets it apart from the rest. Grant dollars are given to Jewish Community projects, particularly those that support the State of Israel, science and medical research, and arts & culture causes in Boston. This last area is a bit broader than it used to be, as music education used to be the primary focus. With the exception of the Instrument Fund, our grant making in Greater Boston is by invitation only.

Although the focus is narrow, that hasn't deterred the foundation from being a big gifter.

    The Klarman Foundation has been passionate about preventing and treating eating disorders, which is almost unheard of on the local philanthropy scene. For example, Klarman suppored a neurology program that aims to study the human senses, in hopes that it will shed some light on the biological basis of eating disorders. Similarly, Klarman has supporting scientific studies that target genetic identification of a neural circuit that supresses appetite.

    One of the the foundation's largest gifts — $3.5 million — went to Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation. Israeli and Jewish charities also commanded many of the foundation's dollars. (The Birthright Israel Foundation was awarded a $1.5 million grant.)

    The Boston Globe published a piece about assets rising at Boston’s five biggest family philanthropies a while back. It pointed out that the Klarmans doubled their giving between 2012 and 2013 as the foundation’s assets grew by almost $100 million during that time. When KFF hit $446.8 million in assets, it solidified its place as Boston’s fifth largest family fund. Seth and Beth Klarman have shared that they intend to give away most of their wealth during their lifetimes, so they may not be as concerned as some other donors that dream of extending the life of their foundation’s giving. 

    Although the foundation continues to invest heftily around its initiatives, unfortunately all applicants are accepted on an invitation-only basis. Historically, the foundation has offered three grant review meetings annually in February, May, and November. You can contact the staff directly at info@klarmanfoundation.org with general inquiries. 


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