Explore. Learn. Connect.

Welcome New Staff!

6/25/2019 |

We are delighted to announce our two new staff members:

Linda Rich, Senior Program Officer, Learning and Network
Stephanie Lerner, Program Officer, Catalyst Fund

Linda and Stephanie bring deep knowledge and experience working with nonprofit organizations and in philanthropy.  Linda Rich will manage the Barra Awards process and portfolio as well as learning across the Barra network.  Linda will join the team in mid-July.  Stephanie Lerner will begin in early August and will work closely with Kristi Poling, Program Director, Catalyst Fund.  Please click here to learn more about the Barra team.

We want to thank everyone who expressed interest in these positions.  We were grateful to receive such a positive response to our work and to meet so many individuals committed to improving our region.  Thank you to Criterion Search Group for their help in managing the search process.

Convening: Innovation High Schools

9/14/2018 |

The Barra Foundation’s Catalyst Fund supported four innovative high schools in Philadelphia – Big Picture Vaux, Building 21, Science Leadership Academy and the Workshop School. During the 2017-2018 year, ImpactED, in partnership with the Foundation, engaged in an intensive year of learning about these school models. There’s no single definition of what is meant by an “innovative” approach to education. Successful innovation requires iteration and work to cultivate an environment where both students and educators are encouraged to take necessary risks and learn from their failures. On Monday, June 18, 2018, education leaders gathered for a conversation about what it takes to implement and sustain innovative school models. The following are video presentations by the leaders of each school, describing their school’s values and learning model:

First Step Staffing’s “Unusual Deal”

1/15/2018 |

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Harold Brubaker covered First Step Staffing’s acquisition of the Philadelphia operations of the for-profit company On Time Staffing, with the goal of using the staffing firm to employ homeless individuals and people recently released from prison.

“There are a lot of people who are homeless or have just gotten out of jail, or prison, and really want to work,” First Step chief executive Dave Shaffer said Thursday. “We’re the link to allow that to happen.”

Click here to read the article.

First Step acquires staffing business to serve homeless & returning citizens

1/11/2018 |

First Step Staffing, a nonprofit social enterprise based in Atlanta, today announced its expansion into Philadelphia. Founded in 2007, First Step’s mission is to secure sustainable income for individuals transitioning out of homelessness, including veterans, re-entering citizens, and others with significant barriers to employment. In the first 12 months of operation in Philadelphia, First Step expects to employ 500 homeless men and women in the area and grow to serve more than 1,000 by year three.

“We are excited and eager to take our model – using a business approach to help solve a social concern – and implement it here in Philadelphia where the poverty rate is the highest of the top largest cities in the country,” said Dave Shaffer, First Step Staffing CEO. “Ultimately, we aim to be a true resource and collaborative partner for the organizations and passionate individuals who are already working to help Philadelphia’s homeless men and women take steps toward financial sustainability.”

The Philadelphia acquisition was funded by philanthropic dollars, including a Catalyst Fund grant from The Barra Foundation, support from the City of Philadelphia, investments by a consortium of socially minded members of Investors’ Circle, and a senior acquisition loan from four Community Development Financial Institution (“CDFIs”), including the Nonprofit Finance Fund, Reinvestment Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation.

Read more about First Step Staffing’s launch in Philadelphia here.

 

Building Evaluation Capacity Initiative

12/18/2017 |

This fall, seven Greater Philadelphia nonprofit organizations began a two-year evaluation capacity program led by The Consultation Center at Yale. Co-funded with The Scattergood Foundation, Barra provided $355,950 that will support five organizations’ participation beginning in 2017 and five organizations in 2018. Through this “beyond the money” effort, Barra aims to strengthen the capacity of nonprofit organizations to self-assess, evaluate and innovate. The 2017-2019 Building Evaluation Capacity Initiative (BECI) cohort is as follows:

  • Children’s Literacy Initiative
  • Coatesville Youth Initiative
  • MANNA
  • Starfinder Foundation
  • Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education
  • Vetri Community Partnership
  • WHYY

Click here to learn more about BECI.

Why unrestricted funding? Two Barra Award winners dish on the benefits.

12/6/2017 |

Generocity’s Brittany Barbato made the case for unrestricted funding and highlighted the work of Barra grantees Neighborhood Bike Works and Tiny WPA. “Unrestricted funding gives mission-based organizations like us the breathing room to focus on program planning, innovation and building a healthier organization,” said Steve Maluk of Neighborhood Bike Works. Click here to read the full story.

Barra Awards bring $2 million to arts, education, health & human services

12/6/2017 |

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Culture Writer Peter Dobrin shined a light on 2018-2019 Barra Awardee BalletX. “It’s just a phenomenal gift, to be able to get general operating support,” said Christine Cox, artistic and executive director of BalletX. “Donors sometimes want to support specific projects, and often that can lead the organization to build too many tentacles. Having an acknowledgment of the work we’ve done from such a prestigious foundation is really gratifying and comes at a really critical time in our development as an organization.” Click here to read the brief.

Press Release: Barra Awardees Announced

12/5/2017 |

In line with its mission to invest in innovation in the social sector, The Barra Foundation has granted $2,150,000 in unrestricted funding to the recipients of its 2018-2019 Barra Awards, which acknowledge and advance exemplary nonprofit organizations in Greater Philadelphia. Forty-three organizations will each receive $50,000 in unrestricted funding over a two-year period. Since its 2013 inception, the Barra Awards has granted more than $6 million to area nonprofits.

“Without unrestricted capital, nonprofits have little margin for error or appetite for innovation. Through the Barra Awards we hope to provide organizations with some financial breathing room and their leaders with opportunities to learn from their peers—a diverse and inspiring network of entrepreneurial thinkers from across the nonprofit sector,” said Kristina Wahl, president of The Barra Foundation.

Read the complete Press Release.

Innovating Intentionally

8/10/2017 |

Event Recap

Innovating Intentionally is a celebration of Barra’s grantees, a showcase of exciting innovations from our network and an opportunity for nonprofit leaders to connect across disciplines.

This year’s event was hosted on June 29th at the beautiful Barnes Foundation and featured several exciting innovations from our grantee network. Shelley Bernstein from the Barnes gave the keynote presentation. Shelley, who is Deputy Director for Digital Initiatives & Chief Experience Officer, described how the Barnes is using observation, pilot testing and evaluation to improve the visitor experience in a number of ways. She also shared some of the challenges and rewards related to recent projects as the organization shifts to visitor-centered thinking throughout its operation.

Tina Wahl, President of The Barra Foundation, reflected:

“A couple of weeks after the event, the leader of Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, Corinne O’Connell, emailed us to ask for an introduction to Shelley at the Barnes. Corinne was excited to apply the museum’s ‘visitor-centered thinking’ to her work in housing and retail. Two weeks out and the presentation was still on her mind. To us, this is a strong signal that an event has been a success: this is exactly the kind of cross-sector inspiration that we aim to facilitate.”

Following the keynote, four grantee organizations presented Ignite-style presentations on projects that are leveraging technology to solve problems and seize opportunities in the fields of Arts & Culture, Education, Health and Human Services. Ignite presentations are fun and fast: “Rapid five-minute presentations, accompanied by 20 slides ticking down at 15-second intervals, inspire the crowd with ingenuity, humor and imagination—ideas that are a call to action, that turn the past upside down, that point the way by which you help make a better future.” As always, the program was followed by a networking reception to reconnect, introduce and thank colleagues from Barra’s network.

Event Photos & Videos

8/10/2017 |

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Innovating Intentionally at the Barnes Foundation. We hope you will enjoy these photos and videos from the event.

We are grateful to the nonprofit and foundation leaders who took time out from their busy schedules to learn from and reconnect with their colleagues. In particular, we are thankful to our presenters, who invested time, talent and creativity to share their innovation stories. Each eloquently demonstrated that it is indeed possible to address persistent problems with new ways of thinking.

  • Shelley Bernstein, The Barnes Foundation, Toward Visitor-Centered Thinking at the Barnes
  • Andrew Siegel & Dan Treglia, StreetChange
  • Aaliyah Green Ross, The Schuylkill Center, NaturePHL: Prescriptions for Play
  • Kelly McGlynn, MANNA, Food is Medicine
  • Tracy Buchanan, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, The TechniCulture Experiment
Event Videos & Photos

Visit Barra’s YouTube channel to watch their presentations and Flickr for photos of the event.

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