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OUR Crisis

6/4/2020 |

In March, we reached out to you when the COVID-19 crisis descended upon us.  Even though we are still in the midst of addressing the negative effects of the pandemic,  today we’re reaching out again as we face another crisis that is affecting our cities and shaking  our nation to its core—and it should.   The crisis we are facing is not new, it is embedded in hundreds of years of systemic racism which we must stand up against in our personal lives and our professional roles.  (read the full message)

Barra Partners Launch Regional Fund to Support Arts & Culture Sector

4/8/2020 |

A collaborative of foundations, The City of Philadelphia and The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Fund worked together to launch the COVID-19 Arts Aid PHL Fund. The new fund will serve individual artists, as well as small and mid-sized cultural organizations that have been devastated by the pandemic.

Barra was one of the lead funders with a $250,000 contribution. The total amount raised at the launch on April 8 was $3.45 million. Donors are encouraged to give to increase the funding to address the overwhelming need in the region. Read the Philadelphia Inquirer story announcing the fund and visit the website to learn more about how to donate or apply.

The Barra Board of Directors and staff are also considering ways to address the recovery issues and longer-term needs that will arise as organizations continue to deal with the public health and economic crises.   Please read this message, which provides details about our response.

Immediate Response to the Effects of COVID-19

4/2/2020 |

The COVID-19 crisis has prompted all of us to adapt and consider new ways to face the unprecedented challenges that face all of us. To help address nonprofits’ immediate challenges, Barra is immediately dedicating $520,000 in grants to respond to the short-term needs of the region’s nonprofit organizations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Click here to read the Philadelphia Inquirer story.

Getting the Best Possible Failures in Philanthropy

1/27/2020 |

Experimentation and learning are in Barra’s DNA.  The late Robert L. McNeil, Jr., the former Chairman of McNeil Laboratories, created the foundation and encouraged innovative thinking and testing. With these roots in the scientific method, we know that failure is part of the process of learning. Some of the best learning comes from efforts that fail, but go on to advance the field in significant ways.

In the coming year, look for more from us – and you – about learning.

Read the article: Getting the Best Possible Failures in Philanthropy

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:

Sharing the Story of Impact: Innovation High Schools

6/14/2018 |

Given Barra’s desire to share learning as part of the innovation process, the Foundation decided to embark on its first “thematic review” to look back across four Catalyst Fund-supported education models: Building 21, Science Leadership Academy, The Workshop School and Vaux Big Picture. During the 2017-2018 school year, ImpactED, in partnership with the Foundation, engaged in an intensive year of learning about these school models. At a June 18, 2018 convening, speakers from each school and The School District of Philadelphia shared key lessons learned from this work and explored the necessary conditions – at the school and system level – for fostering school innovation.  Case studies, photos, videos and stories from each school are now available online.

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.

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