The Alvin H. Baum Family Fund has been investing in our programs and our youth since 1984. We visited with long-time Baum family friend and Trust administrator Joel Friedman to ask what it’s like keeping the legacy alive and serving its original purpose after the founders have passed on, and then we posed a few questions on the subject with his son Kevin, who has started helping in his father’s philanthropic work.
How did your relationship with the Baums evolve so that you are now comfortable making significant funding decisions on their behalf?
I represented them for 25 years and got to know them well. As their tax advisor and estate advisor, we spoke often. After Al’s death, I also saw Ann socially, met her friends, and so on.
What is the most rewarding part of your work as representative of the Baum Family Foundation?
That would be helping organizations to develop their programs and to work with other organizations that I make them aware of
How/where do their missions and yours intersect?
Several years ago I read a book about climate change and became concerned. This was before Al Gore and all the national attention. I investigated further and decided the University of Illinois was the place to get involved since I’d graduated from their business school. David Baum, Al’s son, had been a professor there, and Dean Heidi Hurd of the law school was the Alvin Baum Professor. So we had access to law, business, engineering, and science through the school of agriculture and environmental sciences. What better place to turn to?
What have you learned over the years about the powers and pitfalls of philanthropic giving?
There are good and bad organizations, well run ones and poorly run ones. Most are too busy to do anything but focus on their core mission. By engaging in conversation, I try to get them to see a bit beyond and look to other organizations as resources.
Why are you interested in your son Kevin’s learning about philanthropic activity?
As the Baums trusted me to carry out their visions and recognize that things change, I need someone to carry on for me and the Baums.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I will leave that to others, but I would like to leave the world a better place for my grandchildren.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I hope the Baum Fund can continue to have an impact in a broad array of areas and instill a sense of charity in many individuals. By supporting scholarships for public service lawyers, funding advocates for the homeless, funding women’s leadership programs, and encouraging many more worthwhile activities, I am optimistic that the funds we invest will help countless numbers of people that I don’t even know about. That’s how it should work.
Kevin, when did you first become aware of the nature of your father’s work in philanthropy?
I first learned about it a few years ago after Ann Baum passed away. I was not aware of all the organizations he dealt with until I started working on the Baum Fund with him in early 2009.
What about that work most interests you?
That would be the foundations’ ability to help others who are in need as well as meeting all the selfless employees and volunteers who work with the non profit organizations we deal with.
What do you imagine your generation thinks of philanthropic activity?
I would guess younger people are more concerned with their own personal success and focus on themselves for the early part of their career. That’s not to say they do not value the idea of giving back, but it just seems that philanthropy is something one focuses on after becoming personally successful.
If you could make a significant change through philanthropic giving, what would it be?
If there was one specific thing I could change through philanthropy it would probably be improving and even saving the environment.