Laura Sherman, Klarman Family Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer

FUNDING AREAS: Public health and arts

CONTACT: lsherman@klarmanfoundation.org, 617-236-7909

IP TAKE: Klarman may not be the most transparent philanthropic foundation in Boston, but Sherman's experience on the other side might be enough to get your grant proposal considered.

PROFILE: Sometimes the best person for the job is the one who's bounced around a bit. Laura Sherman, the Klarman Family Foundation's senior program officer, has spent her career in the philanthropy business, and she's seen it from quite a few angles and gotten some great perspective. Sherman has been with Klarman since 2009, but her varied experience prior to that has made her instrumental in the foundation's success.

Before joining the Klarman Family Foundation, Sherman worked for a couple of years as a program officer at the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation. Her current role might feel  familiar to her, as the two foundations have similarities; both are Boston-based philanthropies founded on the assets of wealthy businessmen. In the case of the Klarman Family Foundation, that businessman was the soft-spoken and publicly shy Seth Klarman, and the foundation has more than $255 million in assets.

Sherman also understands the flip side of the non-profit equation as well. She worked as an independent consultant to non-profit organizations for five years before diving into family foundation work. Prior to starting her own consulting firm, she served as vice president of strategic planning and development at Crittenton Hastings House, a Boston-based nonprofit aimed at housing, education, and workforce improvements. Unlike many other program officers, Sherman has worked on the outside, the inside, and on the side. She's been the one trying to get grants, help others get grants, and now decide who is worthy of grants.

Sherman earned her bachelor's degree in anthropology and liberal arts from Vassar College and an master's in health policy and management from Harvard School of Public Health. During her time at the Klarman Family Foundation, she has served as a contributing member of the State Street Foundation's youth violence prevention initiative. She's also served on the working committee of the Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion initiative, which has exposed arts education to thousands of students during the school day. However, Klarman really draws upon Sherman's background in public health, as that's one of the foundation's primary focus areas.

The Klarman Family Foundation trustees gather around the decision table three times each year, in February, May, and November, to make their selections. It doesn't widely broadcast its giving, but some recent notable grants include $32.5 million to the Broad Institute in Boston to launch the Klarman Cell Observatory; $1.25 million to the Israel Project in Washington, D.C.; $75,000 to the Boston Children's Chorus; and a partnership with The Medical Foundation to provide a series of two-year $400,000 grants to investigators resesarching eating disorders.

If you visit the Klarman Family Foundation's website as a grantseeker, you won't find much. The foundation doesn't accept unsolicited grant proposals, it doesn't boast of its large monetary gifts, and it doesn't exactly aim to help organizations understand its grantmaking strategy. Klarman's primary areas of interest revolve around medical research for behavioral health, ensuring a secure Jewish state of Israel, and funding critical needs and city enrichment in Boston. Few philanthropic foundations are so disparately specific, and few have more generic funding criteria.

The best way to get in touch with Sherman about a grant proposal is by phone at 617-236-7909 or by email at info@klarmanfoundation.org.