Explore. Learn. Connect.

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.

Steering Through Uncharted Waters

11/23/2016 |

Special Webinar from Nonprofit Finance Fund

“What keeps you up at night?”

It’s a standard site visit question for us at Barra, one that sometimes even elicits an awkward laugh from Executive Directors and Development staff. But over the past couple of weeks, this question has revealed intense anxieties from the people and organizations we serve. So it was a relief to have Philanthropy Network’s conference to attend last week and to see so many of you together, having a laugh with Vu Le and hopefully feeling a sense of unity in these dissonant times. There is a lot of uncertainty, but the conference speakers (particularly Antony Bugg-Levine of Nonprofit Finance Fund) reinforced that there are steps we can take today to be better prepared for whatever lies ahead tomorrow. More than ever, we at Barra will be keeping an eye out for resources that may help along the way.

Here is the first:

NFF Special Webinars: Steering Nonprofits Through Uncharted Waters

These are uncertain times for the people and organizations dedicated to providing crucial services to underserved U.S. communities.

But an unclear operating environment does not mean we should sit still and wait. This is exactly the time to prepare our organizations for whatever change is coming in a thoughtful, data-driven way. Understanding our organizations’ financial health and readiness, and crafting potential scenarios for our programs and services, are the crucial first steps.

NFF has been teaching this preparedness to thousands of social sector leaders for decades. In response to concerns voiced in the post-election period about an uncertain funding and policy landscape, we are offering special webinars to help nonprofit leaders and funders talk openly and plan proactively, so that mission-driven organizations can have and maintain the financial strength to support their communities.

These webinars are free of charge and will be recorded.

Webinar for Nonprofit Leaders and Board Members
Offered on two occasions:
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 1-2pm ET
Wednesday, Dec. 7, 1-2pm ET
Click here to register

Webinar For Funders
Wednesday, Dec. 14, 1-2pm ET
Click here to register

Why Local Nonprofit Leaders Nominate Barra Awardees

12/16/2015 |

Generocity explored the “flow funding” aspect of the Foundation’s Barra Awards in a recent article. “It’s a creative and important way to engage nonprofits in supporting their peers and their work,” Wahl said. “We’re all doing this work together, and it’s a great way for some of the great problem solvers working in our community to support their colleagues also engaging in this important work.” Having last year’s winners select this year’s nominees is a design intended to reel in new organizations with fresh perspective. Read more.

Generocity, December 2015

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