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Summer Updates: Recent Funding and Refreshing our Strategy

8/10/2022 |

Maintaining our mission. Refreshing our strategy.

Building on learning from these past few years and feedback gathered since our Strategic Plan launched in 2014, we have determined it is time to refresh our strategy. We plan to maintain our mission and our overall approach to philanthropy while making the following modifications:

  • Build out our Mission-Aligned Investing, which we have been experimenting with since 2016. We aim to leverage more of our endowment assets to create greater social impact.
  • Sharpen our Equity Lens to integrate equity, particularly racial equity, more intentionally across our grant making and mission-aligned investing.
  • Refine the Catalyst Fund to better support early-stage, novel, and potentially transformative ideas.
  • Phase out the Barra Awards but integrate valuable components from it, such as flexible funding and opportunities for cross-sector idea generation into our work.

We will be working on the details associated with these adjustments over the next several months, including the development of a new website. If you have any questions or feedback, please submit it to info@barrafoundation.org. You can also sign up for our newsletter here for updates in the coming months. We will share information once it becomes available.

While we are now working to refine the Catalyst Fund, you are still welcome to submit a Letter of Inquiry if you have an idea you would like to submit now.

We thank you for your patience as we implement these changes.

At our June Board meeting, Barra awarded Catalyst Fund grants to:

  • Food Connect
  • Philadelphia Contemporary
  • VestedIn

Click here for project descriptions.

Supporting a safe summer for Philadelphia youth

We recognize the urgency and the multi-faceted nature of the gun violence epidemic in our city. In an effort to take action in the near-term, especially given increased violence in the summer months, Barra made rapid grants to 12 nonprofit organizations serving disproportionally impacted communities throughout Philadelphia.

Each organization received $25,000 to bolster their work with young people this summer as they navigate the ongoing violence epidemic in Philadelphia. These programs were recommended by informal nominators—principally peer funders who have close ties to community-based summer programming.

Artístas y Músicos Latinoamericanos (AMLA)
Beyond the Bars
Deep Space Mind 215 (DSM215)
Fab Youth Philly
Lil Filmmakers
Philly Homes 4 Youth
Photography without Borders
Sunrise of Philadelphia
The ECO Foundation
The Lighthouse Program
The Young Artist Program


We thank these organizations, and many others, for their work creating safe opportunities for young people.

We will continue to listen and learn from our grantee partners and funding peers to understand how philanthropy can contribute to some of the deeper change needed to ensure that all communities can thrive.

News & Highlights, Spring 2022

5/6/2022 |

Grantee Spotlight
At our most recent board meeting, a Catalyst Fund grant was made to College Unbound (CU),  a contemporary accredited college that aims to reinvent the higher education experience for underserved adult learners. Its student-driven model of rigorous and engaged scholarship focuses on each student’s unique ability to power meaningful, transformative change in their own personal and professional lives.

Beyond the Money: Taking a Racial Equity Approach to Endowment Management
On March 11, The Racial Equity Asset Lab (The REAL) hosted a panel discussion for foundation staff and board members about engaging external consultants for advancing mission-alignment, integrating impact investing, and incorporating racial equity in endowment practices. The discussion, which was in partnership with Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia, included key considerations and recommendations for launching an RFP process—particularly when it comes to seeking racial equity competency in investment advisors.

More than 30 foundation staff and board members joined the discussion to learn from and engage with several national experts. A video recording and several resources are available here for those who were unable to attend.

Meet Lauren Stebbins
The Barra Foundation is thrilled to welcome Lauren Stebbins as a Program Officer as of February 2022. The DC native was inspired at a young age to explore the income disparities she saw around her, leading to post-secondary studies centered around inequity and political dynamics. Lauren’s career followed suit with positions in the nonprofit sector designed to contribute toward positive social change. An interest in innovation and the bigger, broader social sector led her to The Barra Foundation.

“For me, most exciting thing about innovation is the power it has to change how people think about an issue, challenge or practice. Tried and true methods keep the trains running, but it can put you in a routine that prevents us from questioning assumptions. When you give someone space to think differently, we can craft better solutions to some of our most entrenched issues,” said Lauren.  Please join us in welcoming Lauren Stebbins to The Barra Foundation.

President Tina Wahl to speak at Total Impact Summit   |   May 16-17 in Philadelphia, PA
Total Impact Summit invites individuals and organizations seeking to align their assets and make investments for positive local and global impact. The 2-day event will feature peer connection opportunities, an Investable Impact showcase, and 20+ sessions featuring 50+ speakers covering topics including ESG, impact investing, climate action, racial equity, and more.

Learn more and register with the code ‘SPEAKERFRIEND’ for $300 off at impactphl.org/ti22.


Check out Barra President Tina Wahl’s latest piece for Impact PHL, “The Power of Catalytic Capital: First Step Staffing.”

Recovery and Response Efforts: Winter 2021

2/22/2022 |

Throughout January, occasions such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and The National Day of Racial Healing provided an opportunity to pause and reflect. Most importantly, the opportunity to ask, “How do we continue a legacy of action for equal rights?” How can we advance racial healing in our own communities? And as we pass the two-year mark following the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S., we ask, “How have we pivoted in these unprecedented times to continue to address current and longer-term needs?”

Learn more about how The Barra Foundation is looking inward to define our role in achieving a more just, united, and accountable future.

Recovery and Response Efforts: Fall 2021

10/7/2021 |

We continue to use our Recovery and Response Efforts to respond to the dual pandemics, and disproportionate impact, of COVID-19 and systemic racism on communities of color. These grants are foundation-initiated and are guided by the experiences and expertise of our nonprofit peers as well as others in the field.

Our June Recovery and Response Efforts prioritized education- and literacy-related nonprofits serving young people in marginalized communities. In September, we built upon these efforts by supporting the launch of a drop-in center that serves vulnerable youth. The Board approved three grants:

• The Center for Black Educator Development, an organization devoted to recruiting, training, hiring and retaining Black educators, to develop a Black Teacher Pipeline model that uplifts and counsels Black high school and college students to become teachers.

• Treehouse Books, a Giving Library and Literacy Center in North Philadelphia, for connecting youth and their families to reading and literacy as the school year begins.

• Growing Resilient Communities, a nonprofit serving transition-aged youth and youth aging out of foster care, for The Cornerstone, Philadelphia’s first youth-driven drop-in center.

For a list of past Recovery and Response grants, please click here.

Recovery and Response Efforts: Summer 2021

6/25/2021 |

Our Recovery and Response Efforts that prioritize organizations combatting the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism have continued throughout 2021.   The Board recently approved grants to education nonprofits serving and empowering students in marginalized communities, including:

    • Research For Action
    • The Children’s Literacy Initiative
    • Center for Black Educator Development
    • Greater Philadelphia Extracurricular Collaboration
    • Read by 4th
    • Tree House Books
    • CCATE (Centro de Cultura, Arte, Trabajo y Educación)
    • Camp Sojourner
    • Girls Justice League

    Total $610,000

    For a full list of our Response and Recovery grants, please click here.


4/28/2021 |

As promised, we took some time to look back on a year that fundamentally challenged how we do our work. 2020 taught all of us that we can only plan so far ahead, which further strengthens Barra’s commitment to remain flexible and open to new approaches and ideas. Though it’s easy to feel like hope is on the horizon, as more people become vaccinated and greater action is being taken to combat systemic racism, we can’t forget how far we’ve come together, including the ways in which philanthropy – and Barra’s work in particular – has adapted.

FROM 2020…

  • As we move further into the year, many institutions are sharing how they responded to COVID-19 shaking the world. Our shift in grantmaking enabled grantees to continue strengthening communities throughout Greater Philadelphia and taught Barra some lessons along the way, too. In the same spirit of learning, this story reflects on our 2020 grantmaking to consider how to move forward throughout 2021 and beyond.
  • In January, we let you know we were working on a summary of our 2020 efforts to summarize what our role has been in our grantmaking and support of nonprofit partners. Please see our new webpage that highlights our responses to COVID-19 and the fight against racial injustice to-date, and more importantly, showcases the organizations on the frontlines.

…INTO 2021

  • In terms of our grantmaking, we are continuing our Recovery and Response Efforts, with the Board recently approving $50,000 to Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia’s COVID-19 Prevention & Response Fund and $200,000 to the Philadelphia Foundation’s Black Leaders/Black Communities Fund. To be more responsive to emerging and evolving needs, our Barra Awards remain on hold. We have maintained our Catalyst Fund as well and its focus on risk capital for novel approaches that have a far-reaching ripple effect. For folks who think they have an idea that could be a good fit, we encourage you to fill out a very brief LOI here.
  • For Beyond the Money, ImpactED will continue engaging our grantees’ leaders throughout the year, as they work together to think in new ways and reimagine what the future looks like, while prioritizing their work as they look toward recovery of the sector. We will also keep building on our conversations about race with a series of workshops, titled, Voice Lessons, designed to bring forward stories that reflect grantee experiences with race in their lives and in their work. Additionally, we will keep connecting our network with opportunities to problem solve and build greater racial awareness through a smaller monthly learning community facilitated by Dr. Kenneth Hardy.

As always, we thank our partners for their work and dedication to making the region a more equitable and just place for all people. We wish you a happy spring and positive thoughts as we move through 2021 to better days.

News and Highlights

2/1/2021 |

We’re sure many of you have been using January to catch your breath and think through what happened in 2020—as well as at the beginning of this year. Like you, we are reflecting on how our grantmaking adapted to a changed world, and we are thinking about what worked and what didn’t work. Soon we will be sharing a more comprehensive summary of our 2020 Recovery and Response efforts. In the meantime, we wanted to share a few updates with you and to highlight some of what we have learned from you, and with you, over this past year as we navigate a recovery from both COVID-19 and systemic racism.

  • We’re proud to announce that our board elected University City District President Matt Bergheiser as our new chairman in December. Matt’s insight and expertise in nonprofit leadership and social entrepreneurship will make us stronger and more responsive to our partners and help in moving the foundation forward. Please join us in welcoming Matt to this new role.
  • To allow for reflection on the work our grantees and partners are doing to confront structural and systemic racism, our staff created a four-part series of workshops led by internationally recognized clinician, author, trainer, and consultant Kenneth V. Hardy, Ph.D. The virtual workshops were held in October and November and had great attendance and valuable dialogue. There is a tremendous response for ongoing work with Dr. Hardy. We’ll announce what’s next in the months ahead.
  • To give grantees a chance to listen and learn from each other throughout the pandemic, we asked Philadelphia-based ImpactEd to lead the development and implementation of a survey that gathered nonprofit leaders’ opinions and insights. The results were then shared in a virtual convening  where 45 leaders were given the space to uncover more powerful approaches, creative solutions, and ideas together. The second phase of this work continues with a year-long series of learning sessions, peer community workshops, and an interactive toolkit of resources for executive directors. We will continue to share we what learn from them this year.
  • To support thoughtful approaches for incorporating elements that address social justice and reach new and diverse audiences, support was given through the Catalyst Fund to the Wilma Theater, The Bearded Ladies Cabaret, and The People’s Light and Theatre Company for projects that are testing new ways to safely present to audiences.

Read on for recent news features about how some of our past and current grantees continue to bring innovative approaches and solutions to their communities.

As we navigate this next phase of recovery, we remain committed to learning together – both in our work with you and in the region.

Recovery and Response: Round 3

12/2/2020 |

To respond to the needs of our nonprofit partners during this time of crisis, prioritize under-resourced communities and collaborate directly with colleagues and others in the region, Barra shifted our grantmaking approach to focus on recovery and response at the beginning of last summer.

For the final round of our Recovery and Response Efforts in 2020, Barra’s Board of Directors approved $620,000 of unrestricted funding in December to nonprofits and citywide efforts that serve marginalized communities by providing them with more equitable access to supports to education and health and human services throughout the pandemic. This round also included awards to economic development projects with the goal of planting some longer-term seeds for recovery, as well as a partnership aiding BIPOC-focused cultural arts nonprofits.

Through conversations with education partners, our staff learned of the need for funding access centers that give students a safe place for digital learning and other enrichment opportunities. Ten organizations and one citywide initiative were awarded $235,000 to improve access to learning supports:

  • Community Navigators
  • WHYY (Education Department)
  • Access Centers
  • Philadelphia Community Stakeholders
  • Partners for Sacred Places
  • Community YMCA of Eastern Delaware County
  • Greater Philadelphia YMCA
  • North Penn YMCA
  • YMCA of Bucks County
  • YMCA of Greater Brandywine
  • YEAH Philly

A total of $385,000 was given to 25 health and human services nonprofits and one citywide initiative that are community-based and have operating budgets less than $1.5 million. Their work centers on behavioral health/trauma, access/disparities, multilevel support, housing stability, workforce/employment and economic relief. Additionally, Barra contributed to two county funds and made several reinvestments from the second Recovery and Response round. Organizations receiving funding included:

  • The Uplift Center
  • Healing Hurt People (Drexel University)
  • La Puerta Abierta
  • New Leash on Life
  • Salvation Army New Day Drop-In Center
  • Sankofa Healing Studio
  • The Creative Resilience Collective/CRY Program
  • Black Doctor’s COVID-19 Consortium
  • Miriam Medical Clinic
  • African Family Health Organization (AFAHO)
  • Agape African Senior Center, Inc.
  • Ardella’s House
  • KITHS (Integrated and Targeted Human Services)
  • Morris Home
  • VietLead
  • Why Not Prosper
  • Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia
  • Ones Up
  • Dignity Housing
  • Potter’s House Mission
  • PAR Recycleworks
  • PowerCorpsPHL
  • Trades for a Difference
  • The Merchants Fund
  • The Foundation for Delaware County
  • Brandywine Health Foundation

We know that small, local businesses face significant challenges in today’s economy. In addition to the general operating grants made in round 3, Barra planted some longer-term seeds for economic recovery with a few multi-year Recovery and Response grants to support communities disproportionality affected by COVID-19 and systemic racism. We awarded $400,000 to three larger nonprofit projects:

  • The Greater Philadelphia Economy League (Philadelphia Anchors for Growth & Equity Procurement Prep Program)
  • The Enterprise Center (Disinfect US Coalition)
  • Community First Fund (Economic Justice Fund)

Finally, we partnered with the William Penn Foundation and the Ford Foundation to support America’s Cultural Treasures with $500,000 over five years. This funding will go toward the Greater Philadelphia region’s partnership in the America’s Cultural Treasures initiative which aims to support the long-term relief and recovery of local BIPOC-focused cultural organizations.

Our Recovery and Responses Efforts gave us an opportunity to streamline our grantmaking process, focus on efforts with at-risk communities and consult with partners. We look forward to considering this experience to further improve and evolve our future work.

Beyond the Money

12/2/2020 |

We continue to find new ways to offer resources and support to nonprofits beyond the money awarded in grants. This is especially critical during this period of uncertainty and strife, as the pandemic, civil unrest and economic volatility continue. Our goal is to include outside experts and sources that can help us connect nonprofit leaders and staff, so they can share ideas and concerns and find new ways to partner to tackle issues together. This connects to our philosophy that collaboration leads to creative ideas that can ignite or accelerate powerful approaches to solve difficult problems.

In the fall, we offered current and former grantees, as well as many of our partner organizations, the opportunity to take part in two different programs:

A Workshop Series Addressing the Unspoken Issues about Race & Racism. The glaring events of racial injustice in recent months have forced many in our nation to confront and consider the deep and abiding issues caused by structural and systemic racism. The nonprofits we work with are confronting these problems by learning through discussion.

In our efforts to continue creating opportunities for connection and reflection within our community, our staff developed a four-part series of workshops led by internationally recognized clinician, author, trainer and consultant Kenneth V. Hardy, Ph.D. The interactive workshops were designed to: get beyond polarized positions; promote honest and sustainable conversations about race; and allow participants from diverse backgrounds to learn with and from each other. The four virtual workshops were held in October and November. The workshops were widely attended and contained valuable dialogue that participants say will be extremely helpful as they continue to address racism within their workplaces and in the communities they serve.

Nonprofit Leader Convening. To help grantees understand and share the effects of ongoing and changing needs and to give them the chance to learn from each other, Barra worked with Philadelphia-based ImpactEd, to develop and implement a survey that collected nonprofit leaders’ opinions and thoughts in early September. The results were then used to develop a virtual convening later in the month where leaders were given the space to discuss their situations and ideas.

Over 60 nonprofit leaders completed the survey and 45 attended the convening. They discussed how to engage in long-term planning in a changing landscape, strive for sustainability and meaningfully involve internal and external stakeholders in shaping their work moving forward. A post-convening survey was conducted to capture leaders’ perspectives and how it may help with their planning.

Recovery and Response: Round 2

9/16/2020 |

This round of grants aligns with our approaching recovery with the lens of dual pandemics, given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and the necessity of addressing issues that further racial and social justice. It is our goal to prioritize those organizations that serve the most vulnerable, such as immigrants and refugees, the housing insecure, returning citizens, individuals and families facing trauma, and essential workers.

To continue our Recovery and Response Efforts, Barra’s Board of Directors approved $520,000 in September for a second round of unrestricted funding to help nonprofits as they continue to address the effects of COVID-19 and racial injustice. With the same aim as the grants awarded in June’s Round 1, we continue to try our best to achieve a funding balance of citywide and neighborhood-based organizations to have a wide reach. This September round of funding focused on two areas: (1) health and human services and (2) arts and social justice.

In the health and human services sector, 32 nonprofits were awarded a total of $395,000. The organizations fall in three categories: health (access/disparities, behavioral health, and trauma), health/human services (multi-support), and human services (housing stability, workforce/employment, civic engagement/voter access). Grantees were selected with the input of 11 individuals from foundations and nonprofits who served as impromptu “nominators” interviewed by Barra staff.

These grants also support other efforts that cross over between health and human services and center on health access/disparities, behavioral health, housing stability, employment, and civic engagement and voter access leading up to the election. The nonprofits receiving funding include:

  • Black Doctor’s COVID-19 Consortium
  • Miriam Medical Center
  • The Uplift Center
  • Healing Hurt People – Drexel University
  • La Puerta Abierta
  • New Leash on Life
  • One Day at a Time (ODAAT)
  • Salvation Army New Day Drop-In Center
  • Sankofa Healing Studio
  • The Creative Resilience Collective/CRY Program
  • Philadelphia Black Giving Circle
  • African Family Health Organization (AFAHO)
  • Agape African Senior Center, Inc.
  • Ardella’s House
  • Bebashi
  • KITHS (Integrated and Targeted Human Services)
  • Morris Home
  • VietLead
  • Why Not Prosper
  • PHL Rental Assistance Program
  • Bethesda Project
  • Dignity Housing
  • Friends Rehabilitation Housing
  • People’s Emergency Center
  • Potter’s House Mission
  • PAR Recycleworks
  • PowerCorpsPHL
  • Trades for a Difference
  • Committee of Seventy
  • Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia
  • Concilio de Organizaciones Hispanas
  • Ones Up

Additionally, a total of $125,000 was awarded to eight arts and culture organizations – three citywide and five neighborhood-based. All have been delivering programming focused on social justice and engaging the community in conversation/learning around related issues. The arts and social justice theme emerged as we researched summer enrichment efforts and through conversations with Barra directors and colleagues. The nonprofits funded include:

  • Bartram’s Gardens
  • First Person Arts
  • Mural Arts
  • Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture
  • Asian Arts Initiative
  • Spiral Q
  • Power Street Theater
  • The Village for Arts & Humanities

With the unknown trajectory of the virus, the uncertainty of federal resources, and the persistence of larger societal conflicts, we recognize the strain that all nonprofits are experiencing and applaud them for their dire work. As these challenges wear on, we know that anticipating what is next and planning ahead is daunting. We are poised to be more responsive and nimbler than ever before to promote collaboration and serve as a model to inform others’ work while the sector defines recovery.

©The Barra Foundation
Philadelphia, PA
(610) 964-7601

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